No! The Rape Documentary. Directed by Aisha Shahidah Simmons. Philadelphia: AfroLez Productions, 2006.

Reviewed by Cheryl Clarke

Are we going to let black men rape black women and girls?
Or are we going to do something about it?
               —Aaronette White, survivor, in No!

Many fine filmic moments collide upon us as we listen to twenty-two commentators in Aishah Simmons’ No! The Rape Documentary. Lines separating survivors from activists from scholars blur. Many notable black women give trenchant commentary and history. Longtime anti-rape activist Loretta Ross offers some of the most eloquent testimony in the film alongside interviews with Simmons’ mother, Zohara, and her father, Michael. The late Essex Hemphill, reading his poem “To Some Supposed Brothers,” is another one of the five men in No! whose words challenge black men to stand against violence against black women. The poem’s lines, “You … toss her name up and down the street like some loose whistle,” clang in my ears still. Simmons—a survivor and a lesbian—through interviews with sociologist/activist/survivor Janelle White and performance poet Queen, also lesbians, reveals how some black men justify rape as a permissible response to lesbianism. The archival footage of the hero’s welcome of convicted rapist Mike Tyson to Harlem upon his release from prison—with Louis Farrakhan cheering all the way—is a daunting exposé.

The clarity of the survivors in No! almost cannot be borne. But viewers will bear it: “When I met the boy who was to be my rapist, I was twelve” (Loretta Williams); “I just tried to go some other place” (Reanae McNeal); “Is he gonna insert this knife in my vagina?” (Audree Irons); “He was one of our heroes [of the Mississippi movement]” (Zohara Simmons); “I was 11 when I was first raped. I was 15 when I had my son, who is the product of incest” (Loretta Ross). Except for one survivor, all were raped by men they knew.

Alice Walker challenges the black community to “complete the work No! has begun.” So, screen No! The Rape Documentary in every black venue, at every historically black college and university, at high schools, and in cities with majority black populations—and then take it to President Obama.1

Black men, take responsibility! Black women, continue to break the silence.

1 A supplementary educational video called Breaking Silences and other resources are available on the No! Rape Documentary website.

Cheryl Clarke is the author of After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005) and The Days of Good Looks: Selected Poems and Essays, 1980-2005 (New York: Carroll & Graff, 2006).