Photo Credit:  Scheherazade Tillet ( Shahidah Simmons

"Afrolesfemcentric" Video/Filmmaking

Aishah Shahidah Simmons is an African American feminist lesbian independent filmmaker, writer, lecturer and activist whose work addresses issues that have a negative impact on marginalized and disenfranchised people. She believes in using the spoken and written word as well as the moving image to make progressive social change irresistible. Simmons is the producer, writer, and director of "NO! The Rape Documentary" and winner of the Audre Lorde Legacy Award.

AfroLez® Productions was founded and created in 1992, by Aishah Shahidah Simmons, to break silences that Black women and girls, regardless of sexual orientation, have kept and keep for so many known and unknown reasons. AfroLez® Productions is an AfroLez®femcentric multimedia arts company committed to using the moving image, the written and spoken word to address the impact of racism, sexism, and heterosexism on the lives of Black women and girls. To date, the primary activities of AfroLez® Productions include:

1. The development, production, distribution, utilization of video/film educational tools that explore the issues of race, gender, sexuality, rape, abortion, and misogyny. The following video educational tools have been used in workshops, university and high school classrooms, seminars, conferences and community centers locally, nationally and internationally (France, England, Hungary, Canada, The Netherlands):

“NO!” a feature length documentary (in-progress) which addresses intra-racial rape and sexual assault in the Black community. “NO!” creates a sacred space within which Black women and men, outraged about intra-racial rape and sexual assault, challenge the Black community to look inward and confront this issue, through their testimonies, scholarship, and art. Looking at Black women’s lives through a holistic lens and understanding that there’s no such thing as partial freedom, “NO!” through the incorporation of narrative vignettes, archival footage, testimonies, interviews, music, dance, and poetry, simultaneously addresses the violent manifestations of racial, gender, and sexual oppression.

“In My Father’s House” © 1996, is a documentary short about a Black feminist lesbian’s exploration of her coming out process through self reflection, and candid conversations with Michael Simmons, her father, Tyree Cinque Simmons, her sixteen year old brother, and Yvonne Marie Jones, her best friend from high school. This video not only explores the interactions between father and daughter, sister and brother, and two best friends in high school; but it delves into both the trauma and joy of the coming out process as well as emphasizing the importance of supporting one’s child, sibling and/or friend during their journey to define their own sexuality…their own identity

“Silence...Broken” © 1993, is an experimental narrative short about an African American lesbian’s refusal to be silent about racism, sexism and homophobia. Featuring the poetry of acclaimed poet Jourdan Keith, this video is dedicated to the memory of self defined Black Lesbian Feminist Warrior Mother Poet Audre Lorde who died in 1992 after a fourteen-year battle with breast cancer. This experimental short was created out of the filmmaker’s personal need to see on screen the internal and external struggle Black lesbians go through when they constantly fight against choosing between their race, their gender and their sexuality in a racist, sexist and homophobic society.

2. Facilitating, teaching, and giving workshops, seminars, and lectures on the intersections of oppressions, on Black women’s lives; the process of using video to make central that which has been placed on the margins of mainstream society; and the process of grassroots alternative fundraising strategies for social change videos and films, at colleges/universities, conferences, women’s organizations, high schools, film festivals, international gatherings, and prisons:

3. Co-Producing and hosting public television and commercial radio programs, which address issues that impact Black women and the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender communities in the Delaware Valley:

• For three consecutive years, co-produced two monthly public programs for WYBE-TV35, one of two public television stations in the Delaware Valley. The shows were “Out of the Closet,” voices from the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community of Color in the Delaware Valley, and “ON! Sistahs,” a show by, about, and for women of African descent.

• Co-produced and hosted three 3-hour live/call-in radio programs for WHAT-1340AM, the only Black owned radio station in Philadelphia. The themes of the programs were “Voices from the Black lesbian, gay, bisexual activist community in Philadelphia,” “Black lesbian film/videomakers,” and “Exposing and addressing violence perpetuated Black women.”

4. Writing articles and chapters that are pertinent to the Black, Women’s, and Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender communities.

• “Using The Moving Image To Make Central The Rape and Sexual Assault of Black Women and Girls,” in “Female ‘Bodies of Knowledge Symposium Proceedings” also published as “Making Visible The Invisible in “Black Men and Domestic Violence. What Do We Know? Where Do We Go?” Conference Proceedings,” © 2002
• “Asserting My In(ter)dependence Every Single Day,” in Savoring The Salt: Celebrating The Life and Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, Eds. Linda Holmes & Cheryl Wall, Ph.D. (forthcoming)
• “Using Celluloid to Break the Silence About Sexual Violence in the Black Community,” in Battered, Black and Blue: Violence in the Lives of Black Women, C.M. West, Ph.D., ed., The Hawthorne Press, Inc. (forthcoming 2003)
• “Creating A Sacred Space of Our Own,” in Just Sex: Students Rewrite the Rule on Sex, Violence, Equality & Activism, Jodi Gold & Susan Villari, Eds. Rowman and Littlefield, January 2000
• “Audre Lorde: A Warrior Who Made Her Meaning Clear,” Sojourner: The Women’s Forum, June 1996
• “Black Feminist Author Toni Cade Bambara Dies,” Sojourner: The Women’s Forum, January 1996. This essay was also published as “A Tribute to Toni Cade Bambara,” in Hembra, February 1996
• “Perspectives of an ‘Afrolesfemcentric’ lesbian,” CROSSROADS, a publication of the Bridges Project of the American Friends Service Committee, Winter/Spring 1996. This article was also published in Women In The Life Magazine, April/May 1998
• “Violence Against Black Women In the Republic of South Africa,” for a publication of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Summer 1994
• “Black gays and lesbians still have many battles to wage,” Guest Opinion, The Philadelphia Tribune, June 21, 1994. This essay was also published as “Breaking the Silence,” Guest Opinion, The Philadelphia Gay News, June 17-23, 1994.

Aishah Shahidah Simmons is the founder and president of AfroLez® Productions. She is an award-winning Black feminist lesbian independent filmmaker, international lecturer, and activist based in Philadelphia, PA. Her internationally acclaimed shorts “Silence…Broken”, “In My Father’s House”, and “NO! (A Work-In-Progress)” explore the issues of race, gender, homophobia, rape and misogyny. As the producer, writer and director of “NO!,” she’s overseeing the post production of this forthcoming feature length documentary about intra-racial rape and sexual assault in the Black community. Ms. Simmons is the author of “Creating A Sacred Space of Our Own,” in Just Sex: Students Rewrite the Rules on Sex, Violence, Equality & Activism Jodi Gold & Susan Villari, Eds. Rowman & Littlefield, © 2000. Her essay “Using Celluloid to Break the Silence About Sexual Violence in the Black Community,” will be featured in the forthcoming anthology Battered, Black, and Blue: Violence in the Lives of Black Women edited by C. M. West, Ph.D., (The Hawthorne Press, 2002/2003). Her essay “Asserting My In(ter)dependence Every Single Day,” will be featured in the forthcoming Savoring The Salt: Celebrating The Life and Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, Linda Holmes & Cheryl Wall, Ph.D., Eds. For three years Ms. Simmons was a co-producer of two television programs for WYBE-TV35 in Philadelphia, PA. She has screened her work and lectured on the impact of the intersections of oppressions, on African-American women’s lives, in Spain, Mexico, South Africa, England, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Hungary, and at numerous colleges/universities and conferences across the United States. Ms. Simmons has been a recipient of several grants including Studio Film & Tape, Inc., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Funding Exchange, three grants from the Valentine Foundation and the Bread and Roses Community Fund, and two grants from Astraea National Lesbian Action Foundation and the WOMENS Way Discretionary Fund. Her awards include the 1994 Philadelphia Gay Pride Award; the 1995 Atlantic City Black Film Festival Filmmaker Award; the 1998 Audre Lorde Legacy Award of the Union Institute Center for Women, the 1998 NAACP Exemplary Citizen Award, finalist for the 1998 Roy W. Dean Grant, and the 2000 Bread and Roses Community Fund’s Waters Award for Intergenerational Activism.

Source:  Aishah Shahidah Simmons

AfroLez® Productions
PO Box 58085
Philadelphia, PA 19102-8085
Phone: (215) 735-7372/Fax: (215) 972-8109/Email:  

Photo Credit: 
Scheherazade Tillet (



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