My Personal Reflection on the Day of Traveling with Black Women's Blueprint to Geneva, Switzerland
My Personal Reflection on the Day of Traveling with Black Women’s Blueprint to Geneva, Switzerland
I left the country for the first time in 1989 on a study abroad program during my sophomore year in college. That journey and my preceding herstory as an incest survivor marked the trajectory of my life. In 1989, I was raped one night and had consensual sex with another man the following night. I returned home pregnant unsure of who the father was and six weeks later had a safe and legal abortion a few days after my twentieth birthday. Three months later, recognizing that I was functionally depressed, Michael Simmons (Dad) took me to Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain to attend an international nuclear disarmament conference. After the conference, I backpacked throughout Spain alone for five weeks. During my journey I met with members of the Basque Separatist Movement, the Women’s League of the Communist Party of Barcelona and Madrid. It was in Granada, Spain at the Alhambra that I wrote in my journal that rather than go in debt over a degree, I would go in debt over a film… Little did I know
Five years later in 1994, I was the youngest member of the American Friends Service Committee’s delegation to observe the first elections post the end of “legal” apartheid. There was a cosmic symmetry about my journey because it was almost exactly 30-years after Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons (Mom) went to Laurel, Mississippi in 1964 (through 1966) to fight against/defy U.S. Sanctioned Apartheid by working with Local Mississippians and her SNCC comrades to register disenfranchised African-Americans to vote. I traveled through and stayed in South Africa for five weeks. It was there that I received a poster from Black South African Feminist Activists that said “The most violent social settings in South Africa was in the home, the crime battering.” Prior to that moment, I never ever thought about violence perpetuated against women in Black and Coloured South African Communities. We never ever talked about gender violence against Black and Coloured women, in the anti-apartheid activist work that I participated in as both a high school and college student. The only violence we talked about was state sanctioned racialized violence. From my own molestation and rape to Desiree Washington, there were many seeds that were planted but it was in South Africa where the seed that eventually (12-years later) became my film NO! The Rape Documentary was fertilized. Never ever again, would I only think about violence in a racilaized in the absence of gender and sexuality lens. NEVER!
Since 1994, I’ve been most fortunate to travel extensively in numerous countries throughout Europe, and journey to Kenya, Malaysia, and India. Almost all of those journeys were directly related to my work to address violence perpetuated against women and LGBTQ people.
Twenty-five years after my very first international journey that forever changed my life, things appear to come full circle. I’m humbled and grateful that I was invited to embark on a journey to Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of Black Women’s Blueprint with my sisters/comrades Farah Tanis, Christina Jaus, Ibo Zié La Lune, Nikki Patin Frances Nielah Bradley to testify at the United Nations about the too often unaddressed state sanctioned and intimate violence perpetuated against women and LGBTQ people in Black communities in the United States. This is very personal work and it’s very political work.
Our individual and collective work (along with the work of so many known and unknown sisters) is often underfunded and under paid, if paid at all. And yet, it is an absolute privilege. I believe those of us who are able have a responsibility and an obligation to do this work, which is part of a continuum of various forms of resistance practiced from Enslavement of African people in the Americas and Caribbean through present day — Free Marissa Now!!!!!
I AM … WE ARE metaphorically standing in the blood and upon the shoulders of straight and queer people who willingly AND unwillingly gave their lives for racial, gender and/or Black queer liberation.
Quoting Co-Founder and Executive Director of Black Women’s Blueprint, Sister Farah Tanis, “It is by telling our own life stories and by writing new narratives toward justice that we practice liberation, heal ourselves and shift the current paradigm—lifting the foot of oppression off of our necks so we can be free.”
I invoke my beloved Sister-Comrade-RADICAL-Pan African-Feminist-Anti Rape Activist-Scholar Dr. Aaronette M. White whose second ancestral anniversary is quickly approaching. She used her activism and scholarship to consistently and tirelessly address all forms of gender violence in various parts of the world – the U.S., Africa, Caribbean, Asia, and Europe. If Aaronette were here in the physical form, I know she would most definitely support our efforts (http://hosted-p0.vresp.com/764463/92351ffc87/ARCHIVE) if not also figure out a way to get on the plane and join us. She is with us in Spirit.