Advisory Board Member

Aishah Shahidah Simmons

Documentary Filmmaker, Author, Educator, & Activist


Aishah Shahidah Simmons is an award-winning Black feminist lesbian documentary filmmaker, activist, author, cultural worker, international lecturer, and professor whose work, for the past 25-years, examines the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and sexual violence. Her work is informed by her lived experiences as a child sexual abuse survivor, adult rape survivor, and Buddhist committed to disrupting and ending the inhumane, humanely.   

She is a 2016-2019 Just Beginnings Collaborative (JBC) fellow. Funded by the NoVo Foundation, the JBC fellowship initiates strategies to end child sexual abuse. Simmons’s JBC-funded project, love WITH accountability, focuses on the power of transformative storytelling to address the global epidemic of child sexual abuse. She is also both a Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication and Affiliate Scholar at the Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse at the University of Pennsylvania.

 Simmons is the editor of the 2019-released anthology, love WITH accountability: Digging Up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse. The collection features compelling writings by forty-three adult, diasporic Black child sexual abuse survivor-leaders, advocates, and Simmons's mother who underscores the detrimental impact of parents/caregivers not believing their children when they disclose their sexual abuse. The anthology explores disrupting the inhumane epidemic of child sexual abuse, without solely relying on the criminal justice apparatus. 

Author and feminist activist Gloria Steinem says of love WITH accountability, "With this brave and healing anthology of truth-telling about sexual abuse within Black families, Aishah Shahidah Simmons sets an example for all families. If we could all raise just one generation of children without violence or the threat of violence, who knows what might be possible?" 

Previously, Simmons produced, wrote, and directed the 2006-released, Ford Foundation-funded, internationally acclaimed film, NO! The Rape Documentary. Over a decade in the making (1994-2006), NO!, which is subtitled in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, broke taboos that hid heterosexual rape and sexual assault in African-American communities. The film brought together leading and emerging Black scholars, theologians, artists, activists, men, women, and survivors to break silences and commit themselves to reshape patriarchal cultures of violence against women and queer communities. NO! has been continuously used in academic settings and also in global movements to end violence against women and children. The documentary was ahead of its time. Its' world premiere took place 19-months before Title IX was successfully applied to a campus sexual assault case, and nine-years before the award-winning film The Hunting Ground was released, and eleven years before the global recognition of the long-term #MeToo movement went viral. 

Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author says of NO!, "If the Black community in the Americas and the world would save itself, it must complete the work this film begins."

The film's supplemental materials Breaking Silences, a two-hour video, and Unveiling the Silence, an interactive 100-page study guide, both funded by the Ford Foundation, are used internationally in educational institutions, rape crisis centers, battered women's shelters, community centers, and correctional facilities and at conferences and government-sponsored events across the United States and internationally.

 A recipient of numerous awards for her work and activism, Simmons most recently received the 2019 Breakthrough U.S. Activist Impact Award, and the 2018 American Studies Association's Committee on Gender and Sexuality Studies Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars, Contingent or Community College Faculty.

She is an associate editor of the online publication, The Feminist Wire, and a member of the editorial board of The Feminist Wires Books at the University of Arizona Press. Her writings are published widely, and her cultural work and activism are documented extensively. Simmons has presented her work across the North American continent, and in numerous countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. She is on Twitter/Instagram at @AfroLez.