AfroLezfemcentric Perspectives on Coloring Gender and Queering Race

notherapedocumentary.org

I am a pro-reproductive justice Black[i] feminist lesbian who is an incest and rape survivor. When I was ten years old, my paternal step-grandfather sexually molested me for two years. The adult son of a very close family friend fondled me when I was an adolescent. I was also raped during my sophomore year in college. For absolute clarity’s sake, I’m not gay because of the sexual abuse that I experienced as a child and young woman. These atrocities do not determine a person’s sexual orientation. If they did, all victim-survivors in the world would be gay.[ii] Incest and rape are words that never fully capture the horrifying and lasting imprint that these experiences leave on minds, bodies, psyches, and spirits both of those who have survived and the many others who have not.[iii] I fully credit the work of many unknown and known courageous racially/ethnically diverse women who began the second wave of this movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s for their tireless organizing and activist efforts in placing ending violence against women and children at the forefront of local, state, and national agendas. Even with the tremendous progress and inroads made, the racist and sexist stereotype that Black women and girls are incapable of being raped or otherwise physically or sexually assaulted still prevails. I join the multigenerational ranks of predominantly Black women who are actively engaged in dispelling this horrid myth/stereotype, which not only renders Black women and girls vulnerable to all forms of violence, but also re-victimizes us if/when we have the courage to come forward about the abuse that we experienced and/or endured.

I am the creator of the internationally acclaimed, award-winning feature length film NO! The Rape Documentary,[iv] which powerfully breaks the taboo, and silence, around sexual assault within African American communities. Bringing together testimonials around both violence and healing from leading African-American women and men, scholars, theologians, cultural workers/artists, and activists (some of whom are survivors), NO! breaks ground in many respects. It especially does so  by furthering difficult conversations about the embodied intersections of gendered and sexual violence with the specific histories of racism, religiosity, class, sexuality, and other forces that shape patriarchal cultures of violence against straight and queer women. Alice Walker,[v] the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple says about NO!,

If the Black community in the Americas and in the world would heal itself, it must complete the work that this film begins.

Now in its 10th anniversary year, this Ford Foundation-funded documentary is subtitled in French, Spanish, and Portuguese, making it accessible to many in the global movements to end rape and other forms of sexual violence. NO! is an anti-rape resource that is used on campuses, in high schools, rape crisis and battered women’s shelters, correctional facilities, government sponsored events and conferences throughout the United States and Canada, and in countries in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

The eradication of racism should be non-negotiable and yet, Black cisgender and transgender women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* men, gender non conforming people, and queer people are still not safe from violence. In our essay Better Off Dead: Black Women Speak to the United Nations C.E.R.D Committee[vi] in The Feminist Wire, Black Women’s Blueprint’s[vii] Co-Founder and Executive Director Farah Tanis and I wrote,

With each of our dead, we mourn the loss of a piece of ourselves and with each of our raped we mourn the loss of a piece of our souls. We can and will name Renisha McBride[viii] alongside Michael Brown[ix]; Rekia Boyd[x] alongside Trayvon Martin[xi]; Jada[xii] alongside Abner Louima[xiii]; Naffisatou Diallo[xiv] alongside Amadou Diallo[xv]; the New Jersey 4 alongside the Jena 6[xvi]; Mia Henderson and Kandy Hall[xvii] alongside Jordan Davis[xviii] and John Crawford III[xix]; Aiyanna Stanely-Jones[xx] alongside Oscar Grant[xxi]; and Sakia Gunn[xxii] alongside Sean Bell[xxiii]. The right to freedom and the right to live and breathe should not, does not, nor will it ever exclude Black (cisgender and transgender) women.

There is a continued need for an anti-gender based violence movement geared to addressing the intersections of oppressions on the lives of Black queer and straight, cisgender and transgender women who are victims/survivors of sexual violence. I believe we must “color” and “queer” our efforts to address and end gender based violence.

For over two decades, my lived experiences, cultural work, and activism repeatedly show me that the struggle to talk about and address state and personal violence against Black women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) people in a local, national, and international racial justice framework is never ending and relentless. When Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ people are raped, sexually assaulted, beaten, brutalized, and/or murdered as a result of misogynist, patriarchal, state-sanctioned, and/or white supremacist violence, it is too often the victim’s individual issue. There is a continued need for an anti-gender based violence movement geared to addressing the intersections of oppressions on the lives of Black queer and straight, cisgender and transgender women who are victims/survivors of sexual violence so that Black women’s experiences of violence are seen as part of a systemic problem to be addressed collectively rather than as an individual predicament.

Any individual, organization, institution, treaty and/or law that asks Black women and LGBTQ people to prioritize one form of oppression over another is not interested in the full liberation of Black people. In her 1983 prophetic and timeless essay, “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppression,” the late self-defined ‘Black Lesbian Feminist Mother Warrior Poet’ Audre Lorde[xxiv] posits,

I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the front upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.[xxv]

Frequently, I struggle to find the right time to discuss inter- and intra-racial gender-based violence in the midst of the justified outrage about the rampant and virulent racialized violence perpetrated against Black people. Yet I know if we put these issues on the back burner, they will remain there. Authors Joey L. Mogul, J.D., Andrea J. Ritchie, J.D., and Kay Whitlock, in the 2011 release Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People In the United States (Beacon Press), give readers alarming commentary about the disproportionate rate that LGBTQ people, especially those of color, are incarcerated for ‘sexual deviance.’ As Black feminist lesbian police misconduct attorney, organizer, and co-author Andrea J. Ritchie posits,

[W]e can’t continue to have conversations about racial profiling, policing, and mass incarceration that erase and ignore the role of gender and sexuality and the experiences of women and LGBTQIA people of color. The policing of gender and sexuality are instrumental to the policing of race and class in the U.S., as well as an independent function of the criminal punishment system. Talking about profiling and policing of women and LGBTQIA people of color is not a distraction from the “real” conversation about the policing and mass incarceration of men of color. It is part of the conversation – some of those men of color are gay, some are really transgender women of color who continue to be labeled by the system as male, and women of color are not just mothers, sisters, daughters of the ‘real’ targets of the criminal punishment machine, they are targets of profiling and police brutality and subjects of the conversation in their own right. [xxvi]

Similar to Michelle Alexander’s book, New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, Mogul, Ritchie, and Whitlock delve into how crime is socially constructed. They show the historical origins of how race constitutes what is considered a crime, while also examining how notions of gender plus race plus class plus sexuality all inform who is incarcerated and who is not.[xxvii]  The 2012 released Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation, by Black feminist scholar and anti-gender violence activist Beth E. Richie, Ph.D., brings issues of Black women’s sexuality, class, age, and criminalization into focus alongside questions of public policy and gender violence. Richie brilliantly demonstrates why there is a non-negotiable need to radically re-frame the criminal justice stories.[xxviii]  In order to move beyond the myopic view that the torture and inhumane deprivation of life of Black men are the only pressing issues in the criminal (in)justice system and prison industrial complex, it is important for one to read Alexander’s book along with reading Mogul/Ritchie/Whitlock’s and Richie’s books.

Contrary to popular mainstream myth, neither the U.S. criminal justice system nor the prison industrial complex are stopping rape and other forms of sexual violence. It’s not making any of our communities, especially Black, Latinx,[xxix] Native/Indigenous, and Asian communities, safe from violence. We are not eradicating domestic and sexual violence in communities of color with tougher crime bills and laws. It has become a legitimate way to horde cisgender and transgender women and men of color into cells. Post September 11, 2001, this hording widened exponentially to include Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians who were and still are viewed as threats to national security. Unfortunately, for too many, with regards to sexual violence, the criminal justice approach has become a “stand in” for community.

I, along with countless activists of color, some of who have been and are affiliated with INCITE! Women, Gender Non-Conforming and Trans* People of Color Against Violence[xxx], are concerned that so many programs geared to addressing and eradicating sexual and gender-based violence are dependent upon money from the very state who perpetuates and condones state-sanctioned violence in the form of the prison industrial complex against communities of color.

inciteblog.wordpress.com

Black feminist lesbian sociologist and executive director of San Francisco Women Against Rape and a co-founding member of INCITE! Janelle White, Ph.D., states in NO! The Rape Documentary,

I’m not sure that criminal prosecution and putting rapists in jail for the very short amount of time they normally serve if they’re found guilty is really going to stop rape because we know men who are found guilty of rape and convicted and serve any jail time come right back out and rape again. There has to be ways in our communities that we address this. I think sometimes outside of the criminal justice system or the criminal injustice system. We really need to think about it. I don’t know if we can afford to throw away particular people and have them locked up forever and ever. I don’t believe in that. I do believe that people can change if they want to change. That’s the question we have to ask Black men in our community. “Do you want to change?  Are you willing to change?[xxxi]

What are the alternatives that hold perpetrators accountable by giving them consequences for horrible atrocities? What do community accountability and restorative justice programs really look like?  Recognizing that most gender-based violence happens intra-communally, what are the ways in which we can hold perpetrators of gender-based violence accountable without getting involved with the very state that brutalizes communities of color? The 2011 released The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities, anthology edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dalani, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, takes an unflinching approach toward these issues. Some of the questions that the contributors ask and answer include,

Was/is your abusive partner a high-profile activist? Does your abusive girlfriend’s best friend staff the domestic violence hotline? Have you successfully kicked an abuser out of your group? Did your anti-police brutality group fear retaliation if you went to the cops about another organizer’s assault? Have you found solutions where accountability didn’t mean isolation for either of you? Was the ‘healing circle’ a bunch of bullshit? Is the local trans community so small that you don’t want you or your partner to lose it?[xxxii]

Black Feminist Scholar and Cultural Critic bell hooks, Ph.D., posits,

For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?[xxxiii]

The following survivor testimony also from Janelle White in NO! is in conversation with hooks’ poignant question:

One of the men who was very supportive of me, who was also very close with my perpetrator (rapist), who did anti-racism work. He’s a Black man. I do think he’s pro-feminist. When I disclosed to him what happened, when he found out. His response was exactly what I would want Black men to do in terms of responding to other Black men who are known to be perpetrators or alleged perpetrators. He didn’t distance himself and say, “I’m just going to shut you out because I’m not like you.  You’re a bad man and I’m a good man.” He continued to talk with this man, not in a way that was let me condone what you did but that was “Look I know what you did. What are you doing to make amends for what you’ve done? You need to seek counseling. You need to do things that are going to change your behavior, because if you do this with this woman, you’ll do this with other women.” I think what was powerful too was that he was able to say to this man, “I’ve learned the behaviors also. It could’ve been me but it wasn’t me. But at the same time, I’m not going to walk away from you because you did this. I’m going to challenge you to do something because you have to change, you must change.” He was constantly checking in with this man as much as he could about what he was doing to rehabilitate himself. I think his sense was that he (the perpetrator/rapist) needed recovery as much as I needed recovery and healing…[xxxiv]

This, in my opinion, is an example of a community effort that must be ignited. (To see an example of how Restorative Justice Circles work in intimate partner violence, click here to read “An Invitation to Community: Restorative Justice Circles for Intimate Partner Violence”.) I strongly and unequivocally believe that if individuals and institutions began viewing each case of gender-based violence as a part of a collective national and even international systemic problem that is all of our responsibility to address, instead of as an individual problem, we could make significant headway to curtail it. I want to be clear that I firmly believe that every victim/survivor must take the avenues which best support their recovery and healing. My suggestion of alternatives to the criminal justice system is to interrogate how and why calling the police appears to be the only solution to the violence we face. Whom do you call if you’re an undocumented worker who’s afraid of deportation? Whom do you call if the police have a documented track record of holding your community under siege? Whom do you call if your rapist/batterer/stalker is a member of the police force or military personnel?

Executive Director of Men Stopping Violence[xxxv] Ulester Douglas asks in NO!,

Imagine if all of us thought that violence against all women and men, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, physical ability, class, type of employment were [sic] unthinkable what might happen? What if the ‘reality definers’ in our lives were not perpetrators and thought that violence is horrible? What would it mean if every single judge, pastor, [imam, rabbi, monk, babalao, and any other religious leader] thought that and used their courtrooms, places of worship, etc. as places to make it clear that this type of behavior is not acceptable. These are some of the reality definers because they have the power to shape norms.[xxxvi]

To read about one spiritual teacher who is doing just that, read: Intimate Partner Violence and Intimate Partner Justice: How Spiritual Teachings Impact Both” by Rev. Al Miles.

What are the messages that get conveyed throughout popular culture when as a society we are so willing and able to separate one’s genius from the violence he perpetuates? Many known alleged and convicted perpetrators are recipients of accolades such as Academy Awards, NBA Championships, Super Bowl rings, Grammys, etc. while the victim-survivors and their supporters, who put an unflinching spotlight on the violence that they perpetuate, are silenced. Chris Brown’s vicious battery of Rihanna,[xxxvii] Ray Rice’s inhumane battery of Janay Rice,[xxxviii] Bill Cosby’s alleged rapacious (my word) serial rapes over decades,[xxxix] [xl] and R. Kelly’s alleged predatory[xli] (my word) statutory rapes of young girls[xlii] are a few examples. Tragically, when accused, too many solely view these men as victims to a white supremacist system as if they can’t also be perpetrators of misogynous forms violence. As a survivor of both incest and rape, it is egregious, enraging, and deeply disconcerting. In the words of the late award-winning Black gay poet Essex Hemphill,[xliii]

a woman is left to heal her wounds alone|but we men, we so-called brothers|wonder why it’s so hard to love our women |when we’re about loving them the way America loves us.[xliv]

 

It’s also equally as egregious that it took Academy Award-winning, internationally acclaimed filmmaker Roman Polanski thirty-five years to finally admit that drugging and raping a thirteen-year old girl was wrong.[xlv] It’s enraging and sobering that Academy Award-winning filmmaker Woody Allen is still celebrated and revered despite his alleged sexual abuse[xlvi] of his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow.[xlvii] It is despicable that Pittsburgh Steeler’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, an alleged notorious rapist, had his 2010 six-game suspension reduced to four [xlviii] and played in the 2011 Super Bowl. I very briefly highlight Polanski, Allen, and Roethlisberger because they are white men whose faces are not the public faces of perpetrators of violence against women and children. More often than not, it’s Black men whose faces are the face of perpetrators of gender-based violence. Depending on the time period, Mike Tyson,[xlix] OJ Simpson,[l] R. Kelly, Chris Brown, and Bill Cosby are some of the names that many will immediately call if asked to name examples of high profile celebrities who commit violence against women and children. Most folks are hard pressed to name high profile white celebrities who’ve committed violence against women and/or children—and not because they haven’t committed the crimes. It’s because we live in a white supremacist society that strives hard to normalize and/or mute the violence that white people commit. I am 100 percent unambiguous about my personal belief that each of the aforementioned Black men is guilty of rape, molestation, battery and/or murder. Simultaneously, however, there is this horrid racist way in which men of color, especially Black men, become the scapegoats as if they are the only ones committing violent acts. Yes, in a heterosexual framework, Black men are definitely perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence; and racism should not ever be used as an excuse or in defense of their behavior. However, they are most definitely not the only ones committing these heinous acts, not by a long shot. We can look to Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw who, in December 2015, was convicted of five counts of rape and thirteen other counts of sexual assault, including six of sexual battery, against eight of the thirteen Black women who accused him of using his badge to coerce sex acts and rape.[li] On January 21, 2016, Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263-years in prison for his heinous crimes.[lii] I am not in favor of the prison industrial complex. Prisons don’t stop rape or any other crime. Women, men, and children are raped in jails, prisons and other forms of correctional facilities. I highlight Holtzclaw’s sentencing because it is a rare occasion in both the history and the contemporary reality of the United States when a police officer  is both convicted and sentenced for raping Black women.

If we don’t hold ALL perpetrators accountable, while simultaneously addressing white supremacy/racism in and outside of the anti-sexual violence movement, and sexism and misogyny in and outside of all communities, none of us will be safe from violence. None of us.

Without community there is certainly no liberation, no future, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression…[liii] –Audre Lorde

Black people are women and LGBTQ, and women and LGBTQ people are Black. Race is a huge elephant in the room, but it’s not the only elephant in the room that is harming Black communities. Our tremendous difficulty with discussing gender, gender identity, and sexuality in Black communities are also enormous elephants, which stand right next to the huge race elephant. We can no longer afford to talk about race as the only elephant in the room in the twenty-first century. We also can no longer afford to avoid including a racial framework when talking about gender, gender identity, and sexuality. When we fail to include both race and gender in these discussions, we are ignoring life-threatening issues that are directly harming over half of Black communities. It’s as if talking about sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, heterosexism, and transphobia aren’t also “race” issues and concerns. Aren’t Black LGBTQ people and straight cisgender women members of the Black race too?  How can we continue to operate as if sexism, classism, misogyny, heterosexism, and transphobia aren’t also integral parts of the larger whole? Each should be non-negotiable inclusion in any racial, gender, and/or sexuality discourse.

I don’t have to be you or even share your personal her/history to understand and respect your pain. I don’t have to like or even approve of your sexuality or gender identity to honor your humanity. As long as we say and believe, “That’s not my context, therefore, I’m not responsible for your oppression and pain,” we’ll never eradicate all forms of violence perpetuated against all of us. And, as a result, none of us will be fully free from all forms of violence. It is not until the most marginalized of us are safe from violence that we will all be safe from violence. It’s imperative that we remember that this work is not easy. It also takes an emotional mental, physical, psychic, spiritual, and psychological toll on our very beings, which is why we must take care of ourselves while we do this work.

I curse the white darkness. I also choose an intersectional awareness to holistically tackle the challenges facing us today. This awareness is a piercing Black radiant light that calls each one of us to intentionally build upon the radical and compassionate social change that so many known and unknown have been doing for centuries and take that work to the next level, twenty-first century style.


[i] I consciously use the words Black and African-American interchangeably to describe some of the descendants of enslaved Africans who were brought over, against their will in chains, to the Americas and landed on the mass of land now known as the United States of America. Simultaneously, however, I’m explicitly clear that African-Americans are not the only Black people in the America. In this context Black is not a color, it is an intentional politicized racial identity.

[ii] If molestation and rape made women lesbian and bisexual, most women in the world would be lesbian or bisexual. Please read “Facts About Violence” http://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html#global

[iii] In the interest of space, I chose not to delve into the complexities and nuances of my child sexual abuse and path to healing in this essay. I focus on that component of my journey in “Removing the Mask,” a chapter in the forthcoming anthology Queering Sexual Violence, Jennifer Patterson, editor, Magnus Press, 2016. http://queeringsexualviol.wix.com/qsvanthology

[iv] NO! The Rape Documentary: http://NOtheRapeDocumentary.org

[v] Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated writer, poet and activist whose books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry.  She won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1983 and the National Book Award.  http://alicewalkersgarden.com/

[vi] Simmons, Aishah Shahidah and Tanis, Farah. Better off Dead: Black Women Speak to the United Nations CERD Committee, The Feminist Wire, September 5, 2014, http://thefeministwire.com/2014/09/better-dead-black-women-speak-united-nations-cerd-committee/

[vii] Black Women’s Blueprint, Inc. is a civil and human rights organization of women and men. Their purpose is to take action to secure social, political and economic equality in American society now. They work to develop a culture where women of African descent are fully empowered and where gender, race and other disparities are erased. For more information, please visit: http://blackwomensblueprint.org

[viii] Semuels, Alana, “Detroit-area man gets 17 to 32 years for shooting visitor on porch,” Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2014 http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-porch-killer-sentenced-20140903-story.html

[ix] Robles, Frances, and Julie Bosman, “Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Was Struck at Least 6 Times,” The New York Times, August 17, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/us/michael-brown-autopsy-shows-he-was-shot-at-least-6-times.html

[x] Goldstein, Sasha, “Chicago cop charged with killing unarmed young woman during off-duty confrontation,” New York Daily News, November 25, 2013, http://time.com/3329351/ray-rice-timeline/

[xi] Unarmed Trayvon Martin was brutally gunned down by George Zimmerman. http://trayvonmartinfoundation.org/

[xii] Morris, Monique W., “We Are Jada (And It’s Time to stop ignoring the Rape of Black Girls), Ebony.com, July 18, 2014, http://www.ebony.com/news-views/stand-with-jada-043#axzz3CPMkCfvG

[xiii] Chandler, D.L., Abner Louima Was Savagely Beaten by NYPD 15 Years Ago Today, NewsOne.com, August 9, 2012 http://newsone.com/2029939/abner-louima-case/

[xiv] Simmons, Aishah Shahidah, “Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People Straight Women, and Girls) (Part 2), The Feminist Wire, April 24, 2012 http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-2/

[xv] Fritsch, Jane, “The Diallo Verdict: The Overview; 4 Officers in Diallo Shooting Are Acquitted of All Charges,” The New York Times, February 26, 2000, http://www.nytimes.com/2000/02/26/nyregion/diallo-verdict-overview-4-officers-diallo-shooting-are-acquitted-all-charges.html

[xvi] Simmons, Aishah Shahidah, “Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People Straight Women, and Girls) (Part 1), The Feminist Wire, April 23, 2012, http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-1/

[xvii] Pilkington, Ed, “Fear and violence in transgender Baltimore: ‘It’s scary trusting anyone,’” The Guardian, August 1, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/01/murder-transgender-women-baltimore-heighten-fears-mia-henderson

[xviii]Sanchez, Ray, “Man gets life without parole for murdering Florid teen over music, CNN.com, October 17, 2014,  http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/17/justice/michael-dunn-sentencing/

[xix] Lopez, German, “After police killed John Crawford at a Wal-Mart, they threatened his girlfriend with jail,” Yahoo! News, December 15, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/police-killed-john-crawford-walmart-155002241.html

[xx] Smith, Mychal Denzal, “Why Aiyana Jones Matter,” The Nation, June 19, 2013, http://www.thenation.com/blog/174859/why-aiyana-jones-matters#

[xxi] Johnson, Wanda, “Oscar Grant’s Mother: ‘We Have to Be Relentless in the Vindication of Our Slain Sons,” Time.com, August 26, 2014, http://time.com/3181736/michael-brown-ferguson-oscar-grant/

[xxii] Wright, Gary Paul, “Remembering the murder of Sakia Gunn and Newark’s lost opportunity,” May 20, 2013, Star-Ledger, http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2013/05/remembering_the_murder_of_saki.html

[xxiii] Borger, Julian, “New York on edge as police kill unarmed man in hail of 50 bullets on his wedding day,” The Guardian, November 27, 2006, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/nov/27/usa.julianborger

[xxiv] Audre Lorde (1934-1992) published ten volumes of poetry and five works of prose, including Zami: A New Spelling of My Name; The Cancer Journals, A Burst of Light, Our Dead Behind Us, From a Land Where Other People Live, Cables to Rage, and The Marvelous Arithmetics Of Distance.  She was a recipient of many distinguished honors and awards, including the Honorary Doctorate of Literature, Hunter College (1991); Walt Whitman Citation of Merit (1991); Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Oberlin College (1990); Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Haverford College (1989), and the Manhattan Borough President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (1988). She was named the New York State Poet, 1991-1993. She is the subject of three award-winning documentary films, a biography, two edited collections, numerous scholarly articles and a forthcoming (2015) bio/anthology written/edited by her partner Dr. Gloria I. Joseph. In February 2014, I curated and lead edited a global online forum in The Feminist Wire in honor of Lorde 80th birthday anniversary year: http://thefeministwire.com/2014/03/afterword-standing-lordean-shoreline/

[xxv] Lorde, Audre. “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions” in Homophobia and Education (New York: Council on Interracial Books for Children, 1983). You can also read online: https://lgbt.ucsd.edu/education/oppressions.html

[xxvi] Ford, Tanisha C. “Feminists We Love: Andrea J. Ritchie,” The Feminist Wire 9/24/14 http://thefeministwire.com/2014/01/feminists-we-love-andrea-ritchie/

[xxvii]  Simmons, Aishah Shahidah, “Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women and Girls” (Part 3), The Feminist Wire 4/25/14 http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-3/

[xxviii] Richie, Ph.D., Beth E., Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation, (NY: New York University Press, 2014)

[xxix] Reichard, Raquel, “9 Things Latinos Are Tired of Explaining To Everyone Else,” March 4, 2015, Mic.com, http://mic.com/articles/111648/9-things-latinos-are-tired-of-explaining-to-everyone-else#.HFN6c9zfU

[xxx]INCITE! Women, Gender Non-Conforming and Trans People of Color is a national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing. For More Information: http://www.incite-national.org/home

[xxxi] Janelle White, Ph.D., quoted in NO! The Rape Documentary (AfroLez® Productions, 2006) http://NOtheRapeDocumentary.org

[xxxii] Chen, Ching-In, Dulani, Jai. and Samarsinha, Leah Piepzna The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (NY: South End Press, 2011)

[xxxiii] Watkins, P.D., Gloria (bell hooks).  Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, (MA: South End Press, 2000)

[xxxiv] Janelle White quoted in NO! The Rape Documentary (AfroLez® Productions, 2006) http://NOtheRapeDocumentary.org

[xxxv] Men Stopping Violence is a national training institute that provides organizations, communities, and individuals with the knowledge and tools required to mobilize men to prevent violence against women and girls. http://menstoppingviolence.org

[xxxvi] Ulester Douglas quoted in NO! The Rape Documentary (AfroLez® Productions, 2006) http://NOtheRapeDocumentary.org

[xxxvii] Duke, Alan, “Brown sentenced for Rihanna assault, other incidents surface,” CNN, August 26, 2009, http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/08/25/chris.brown.sentencing/

[xxxviii] Elliott, Rebecca, “Everything You Need To Know About the Ray Rice Case,” September 11, 2015, http://time.com/3329351/ray-rice-timeline/

[xxxix] Giles, Matt and Jones, Nate, “A Timeline of the Abuse Charges Against Bill Cosby,” Vulture, March 3, 2015, http://www.vulture.com/2014/09/timeline-of-the-abuse-charges-against-cosby.html

[xl] Seemayer, Zach, “Bill Cosby’s Accusers: A Timeline of Alleged Sexual Assault Claims (Updated),” ETOnline, December 30, 2015 http://www.etonline.com/news/154160_timeline_of_bill_cosby_sexual_assault_allegations/

[xli] Alyssa Rosenberg’s December 16, 2013 “What R. Kelly Teaches Us About How Sexual Predators Choose And Silence Their Victims,” article in ThinkProgress is one of my sources that informed my use of the descriptor “predator” for R. Kelly. http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2013/12/16/3071371/kellys-behavior-teaches-tactics-sexual-predators/

[xlii] Hopper, Jessica, “Read the ‘Stomach-Churning’ Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full,” The Village Voice, December 6, 2013, http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/12/read_the_stomac.php

[xliii] Essex Hemphill was an award-winning Black gay poet, writer, performer and cultural worker whose work stood at the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. His first collections of poems were the self-published chapbooks Earth Life (1985) and Conditions (1986). His first full-length collection, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry (1992), won the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award. His work is included in the anthologies Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time (1986) and Life Sentences: Writers, Artists, and AIDS (1993). He completed Joseph Beam’s edited anthology Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men (1991), which won the Lambda Literary Award. His poetry is featured in Marlon Riggs Tongues Untied (1989) and Black Is … Black Ain’t (1994). Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston (1989), Shari Frilot’s Black Nations/Queer Nations? (1995) and Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ NO! The Rape Documentary (2006). He is one of the featured subjects in Martin Duberman’s Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS (The New Press, 2014). Essex’s life was cut short in November 1995 because of complications resulting from AIDS. Filmmaker and Artist Tiona McClodden created Af-fixing Ceremony: Four Movements for Essex.  It is an online interdisciplinary remembrance that, 20-years after his passing, ‘brought [Hemphil] into cyberspace – a space of liminality-for him and his work to exist.’ Af-fixing Ceremony: Four Movements for Essex.  It is an online interdisciplinary remembrance that, 20-years after his passing, ‘brings [Hemphil] into cyberspace – a space of liminality-for him and his work to exist.’ “Af·fixing Ceremony: Four Movements for Essex took over the Institute for Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania’s (ICA) website on World AIDS Day in 2015, as an online ritual to invoke Hemphill’s spirit.” http://www.tionam.com/affixingceremony#1

[xliv] Essex Hemphill quoted in NO! The Rape Documentary (AfroLez® Productions, 2006) http://NOtheRapeDocumentary.org

[xlv] Dusenberry, Maya. “Roman Polanski Admits The Girls He Raped Was His Victim” 2011 http://feministing.com/2011/09/29/roman-polanski-admits-the-girl-he-raped-was-his-victim/

[xlvi] Orth, Maureen, “10 Undeniable Facts About the Wood Allen Sexual Abuse Allegation,” Vanity Fair, February 7, 2014, http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2014/02/woody-allen-sex-abuse-10-facts

[xlvii] Farrow, Dylan, “An Open Letter from Dylan Farrow,” The New York Times, February 1, 2014, http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/01/an-open-letter-from-dylan-farrow/?_r=0

[xlviii] Bellisle, Martha “Ben Roethlisberger settles lawsuit alleging 2008 rape,” USA Today, 1/20/2012, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/story/2012-01-20/ben-roethlisberger-settles-lawsuit/52702798/1

[xlix] Shipp, E.R., “Tyson Gets 6-Year Prison Term for Rape Conviction in Indiana,” http://www.nytimes.com/1992/03/27/sports/tyson-gets-6-year-prison-term-for-rape-conviction-in-indiana.html

[l] Malnic, Eric and Ferrell, David, “(From the archives) O.J. Simpson’s Ex-Wife Found Stabbed to Death,” June 14, 1994, http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-oj-simpsons-exwife-found-stabbed-to-death-story.html

[li] Redden, Molly, “Daniel Holtzclaw: Former Oklahoma City police officer guilty of rape,” December 11, 2015, The Guardian,  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/11/daniel-holtzclaw-former-oklahoma-city-police-officer-guilty-rape

[lii]Larimer, Sarah, “Disgraced ex-officer Daniel Holtzclaw sentenced to 263 years in prison for rapes, sexual assaults,” January 21, 2016, The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/01/21/disgraced-ex-officer-daniel-holtzclaw-to-be-sentenced-after-sex-crimes-conviction/

[liii] Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals (CA: Aunt Lute Books, Special Edition, 2006)

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Aishah Shahidah Simmons is the 2015-2016 Sterling A. Brown Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College, a 2016-2018 Just Beginnings Collaborative Fellow, and an Associate Editor of the online publication The Feminist Wire. You can follow her on twitter @AfroLez.
 
tags:   
Tip Jar Email Bookmark and Share RSS Print
Get Tikkun by Email -- FREE

COMMENT POLICY Please read our comments policy. We invite constructive disagreement but do not accept personal attacks and hateful comments. We reserve the right to block hecklers who repost comments that have been deleted. We do have automated spam filters that sometimes miscategorize legitimate comments as spam. If you don't see your comment within ten minutes, please click here to contact us. Due to our small staff it may take up to 48 hours to get your comment posted.

One Response to AfroLezfemcentric Perspectives on Coloring Gender and Queering Race

  1. Allen Ray Johnson February 10, 2016 at 7:13 am

    I hope that the author, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, includes in her book a scathing critique of the media. In particular, the multi-billion dollar pornography industry that is hyper-violent and degrading to the “actors,” poisons the minds and souls of those many who view the stuff, and reverberates in ripples out into mainstream film, music, television, fashion, and pop culture. Feminist Gail Dines, however, laments that many feminists refuse to acknowledge this extreme assault of pornography upon the dignity of human beings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*