A State of Rage (for Toni Cade Bambara) – The Feminist Wire

A State of Rage (for Toni Cade Bambara)

Toni Cade Bambara was an important catalyst for the creation of my film NO! The Rape Documentary. In one of my last of many scriptwriting workshops taken or proctored with Toni at Scribe Video Center, the vision for what evolved into NO! The Rape Documentary was fully conceived.  This particular workshop was very special because all of the students were women including Tina Morton, Crystal Morales, Sherri Denise James, and Wanda R. Moore. In Toni’s workshop, I expressed tremendous frustration and difficulty with transforming my thoughts and my feelings in my head about “The Rape Video Project” to images on paper. Sensing that I may come to class empty handed or worse, not come to class at all, she followed up with a big sista “take no prisoners” voice mail message telling me that I better come to class and I better not come empty handed. Her message was my initiation by fire and it was grounded in love. I am forever grateful. That December 1994 evening I conceived and gave birth to my choreopoem A State of Rage (ASoR) in my apartment. ASoR served as the steady twelve-year roadmap from conception to completion in 2006 when NO! had her world premiere at the 2006 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, CA.

"A State of Rage" -Jacquelin Thompson, Lois Moses, Bridget Jones Photographer: Wadia L. Gardiner Courtesy: AfroLez® Productions

“A State of Rage,” Jacquelin Thompson, Lois Moses, Bridget Jones. Photographer: Wadia L. Gardiner
Courtesy: AfroLez® Productions

Throughout US history Black women have been sexually stereotyped as immoral, insatiable, perverse, the initiators in all sexual contacts – abusive or otherwise. The common assumption in legal proceedings as well as in the larger society has been that Black women cannot be raped or otherwise sexually abused…
—African American Women In Defense of Ourselves2

This1 is NOT an objective piece.
I said . . . This is NOT an objective piece.
I said. I am. I am. I am.

I am tired of the silences that have been imposed on us. Shhhhh. Black women and girls.
I am tired of the silences that we, Black women, have imposed on ourselves and on our daughters.

I am angry that when a Black woman says that she has been raped by a Black man that many Black people view it.
The Black woman’s charge
As an act of betrayal against the Black community.
As if the Black woman’s rape ain’t an act of betrayal against the Black community.

I am angry that the very same people . . .
Particularly those designated Blackmaleleaders. Y’know the ones who supported Tawana Brawley and yet charged Desiree Washington with treason against the Black community.

I am angry that the rapist is more important than the woman who is raped.
I am angry that the fate of women who have been raped is judged by the race and class of their rapist.

This is a meditation peace.
A peace that is uncompromising. 

A peace that is Black woman identified.
Black woman identified
Black woman identified

A peace that doesn’t hold back for the sake of community.

A peace that vehemently rejects the notion that Black women have to sacrifice our bodies and silence our tongues for the sake of the community.

A peace that will include the diversity of women of African descent, regardless of class, physical ability, sexual orientation, and/or religion.

From the time we were brought over here in SHACKLES

This is a meditation peace

We have been under physical, emotional, and spiritual attack.

slave_routesThrough The Middle Passage. Through The Middle Passage. Obatala. Through the Middle Passage. Oshun. Through the Middle Passage. Yemenja. Through the Middle Passage. Oludumare. THROUGH THE MIDDLE PASSAGE. Mohammed. Through the MIDDLE PASSAGE. Isis. THROUGH THE MIDDLE PASSAGE. Isa throughthemiddlepassage Jesus throughthemiddlepassage Mary throughthemiddlepassage Osiris throughthemiddlepassage Elegba throughtheMAMABABADADAmiddlepassage Ya Allah throughthemiddlepassage God throughthemiddlepassage MAMA throughMAMAthemiddleBABApassage DADAthroughthemiddlepassageMAMA throughtheDADAmiddlepassage BABA throughthemiddlepassage throughthemiddlepassageMAMA throughthemiddlepassageMAMA throughthemiddlepassage throughthemiddlepassage DADA throughthemiddlepassageBABA throughthemiddlepassage throughthemiddlepassage throughthemiddlepassage throughthemiddlepassage throughthemiddlepassage throughthemiddlepassage…Ase.

A healing peace
On the auction blocks

A meditation peace
In the fields

A healing peace
In the homes we cooked for and cleaned in

A meditation peace
In the factories we worked

A healing peace
In the homes we lived

A meditation peace
In the schools we founded and attended

A healing peace
In the churches, mosques, and temples where we worshiped

A meditation peace
In the movements we led 

Given this history. Given Black women’s her story. Given all of our his/her story, will someone please tell me what the HELL is rape?


Is it enough for a woman to say NO!
Ask the question? 

Or does she have to prove that she fought
Almost to her death 

To protect her virtue, her womanhood…
As defined by a heterosexual patriarchal point of view. 

Does a woman’s behavior, attire and/or poor judgment justify her rape…her sexual assault, Physical or verbal?

Did you hear me?
Ask it again sistah; we don’t think they heard you. 

I said, does a woman’s behavior, attire, and/or poor judgment, ever, ever, EVER justify her rape, her sexual assault, physical and/or verbal.


This is a meditation peace.
This is a healing peace
A meditation peace
A healing peace
Meditation peace
Healing peace. 


[1] Reprinted from Shout Out: Women of Color Respond to Violence (Eds. Maria Ochoa and Barbara K. Ige, The Seal Press ©2007) by permission of the author, ©1994 Aishah Shahidah Simmons
[2] “African American Women In Defense of Ourselves,” New York Times, November 17, 1991, 47.

Aishah Shahidah Simmons Photograph: ©Julie Yarbrough

Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Photograph: ©Julie Yarbrough

Aishah Shahidah Simmons is a Black feminist lesbian documentary filmmaker, cultural worker, and international lecturer. An incest and rape survivor, she is the Creator of the Ford Foundation-funded internationally acclaimed and award-winning feature length film NO! The Rape Documentary.  Presently, she is an adjunct professor in the Women’s and LGBT Studies Program at Temple University. Previously, she was an O’Brien Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Scripps College and a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Committed to archiving, documenting, and telling Black women’s herstories and contemporary realities, Aishah was the Curator and Lead Editor of  The Feminist Wire‘s (TFW), “Global Forum on Audre Lorde.” She is also the Co-Curator and Co-Editor, with Heidi Renee Lewis, of TFW’s “Toni Cade Bambara 75th Birthday Anniversary Forum.”  Aishah is the author of several essays  including the Foreword to the recently released Dear Sister: Letters to Survivors of Sexual Violence. She has screened her work, guest lectured, and facilitated workshops and dialogues about ending all forms of sexual violence; queer identity from an AfroLez®femcentric perspective; the grassroots process of making social change documentaries; and non-Christocentric spirituality at colleges and universities, high schools, conferences, international film festivals, rape crisis centers, battered women shelters, community centers, juvenile correctional facilities, and government sponsored events across the United States and Canada, throughout Italy, in South Africa, France, England, Croatia, Hungary, The Netherlands, Mexico, Kenya, Malaysia, and India. You can follow Aishah on twitter at @AfroLez and connect via her public Facebook page. For more information, please visit: