Guest Post: Morénike Onaiwu on Why the Autistic PoC Anthology is Important

Today I’ve invited Morénike Onaiwu to write about the importance of the Autism and Race Anthology that Autism Women’s Network is fundraising to put out with Lydia Brown (aka Autistic Hoya.) While I do find the anthology incredibly important myself and could sit here and type up a ton about representation, I feel that it is important to carry the principles that having an anthology about Autistic PoC be written by Autistic PoC exemplifies into how I help promote it. So aside from signal booting about it on my social media, I’m pleased to welcome Morénike to be the first guest post ever on this blog. 


 

A family shot of a woman with two young children sitting piled together on an indoor hammock.

Morénike and her two children.

 

Though I was obviously “born this way,” on paper, I’ve only been “officially” Autistic for under a year. What now seem to me like obvious signs of being on the spectrum were always explained away as “something else.” For adult Autistic women, such experiences are not uncommon. However, I strongly believe that it is not just my gender that contributed to my being “missed” for over three decades. I am certain it is at least partially due to my color as well. You see, I am a black woman – and growing up, autism simply didn’t “look” like me.

My name is Morénike, and I am a board member of the Autism Women’s Network (AWN) as well as an Autistic advocate and parent (of Autistic and non-Autistic children). I’m honored to appear as a guest blogger today to post about a topic that’s very important to me – and that I believe should be important to you. Though I am somewhat of a newbie to Autistic advocacy, my interest and commitment are sincere. But regardless of who I am, this issue is one that I hope you will be willing to lend your support to.

There is a quite a bit more understanding of autism in 2014 than there was in the ’80’s when I was a child. However, one thing that hasn’t changed much is that neither the public “face” not “voice” of autism is reflective of the diversity of Autistic people, whom do not all have the same skin tone as Temple Grandin or the child actor from “Parenthood.” Autistics of all hues are working to increase the solidarity of various groups within our community and to amplify the voices of those of us who are less represented, so things are gradually improving. But change takes time. In the large, multicultural city where I live, I can still easily pick my two Autistic children out in a crowd when we attend local autism events; clearly there’s still much more to be done.

Fortunately, an exciting Autism Women’s Network (AWN) project is underway that will highlight the voices of Autistic people of color. Edited by another AWN board member, Lydia Brown (a talented Autistic writer and blogger), the project – an Autism and Race Anthology – will fill a much-needed void and will help to make the discourse surrounding autism more inclusive of racialized individuals. I cannot emphasize enough how significant this project is. However, to make this anthology a reality, we need help!!! YOUR help. Here’s how you can make this anthology a reality:

  • Signal boost this project. Tweet about it! Post about it on your blogs, on tumblr, on Facebook, on other social media venues. We need to spread the word far and wide.
  • Donate. A little money can go a long way. AWN is committed to making the anthology accessible, so it will need to be created in various types of media formats. To do this, funds are required. Only about a third of the money that is needed has been raised. We really need more! Please donate, and also share widely to encourage those that you know to also help with a donation!
  • Submit! We heavily encourage any person of color who identifies as Autistic to contribute to the anthology. Submissions are being accepted from now through the month of November, and acceptable formats include poetry, narrative, and more.

Please visit the link below to get more detailed information about the anthology and how you can help. Thank you!

Donate via the Autism and Race IndieGoGo.

Check out the submission guidelines for the anthology and consider submitting.

AWN and Pepsi Refresh

I have been reluctant to post about this here because I like to maintain myself as an independent advocate on top of my work with various organizations. But after weighing my options, I’ve decided that this post does need to be made.

Autism Women’s Network (which I am the Director of Advocacy for) is currently in the running for a $50k grant through the Pepsi Refresh project. The Pepsi Refresh project gives out monthly grants based on community support to organizations and projects. (Official Page; Story on it.) You might have seen a version of this commercial on TV, featuring  Black Eyed Peas’ “One Tribe” Buy "One Tribe" on iTunesBuy "One Tribe" from Amazon :

AWN is pursuing this for a couple of reasons.

1) Project FAIM. FAIM stands for Female Autistic Insight Mentoring. The idea is to provide trainings and workshops in communities across America that focus on the issues- and possible supports- faced by women and girls with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

We plan on bringing in adult autistic women to share insight on these issues, as well as providing valuable role models for autistic women in attendance. But the core of the program isn’t bringing in names or faces- you can get that at your average conference, some at which the presenters are the only autistics in attendance. The idea is instead to use some of the stories to get an idea about some of the issues facing many autistic women, and to make these issues real to participants.

The real “meat” of the project is to bring the ideas, skills, and the framework for finding resources on a wide range of issues into our communities. We expect to reach a wide range of people, from autistics themselves to allies such as friends and system peers and service providers. By changing how our allies approach the issues, it is our hope that local communities can be more effectively supportive. Too often, a medical model is used when looking at supports, and rarely is a medical model effective for most of the issues people face. When we change the paradigm from a medical to an individualistic approach, we can see more success in all areas of life.

Some of the tentative topics we will be covering include peer supports, Entering adult life- and what that means for different people, Learning how to successfully communicate and negotiate some social expectations, and identifying vulnerabilities and some safe guards we can put in place to protect us. Other topics and issues are welcome to be included.

2) Establish AWN’s Non-Profit Status. Establishing federally recognized non-profit status is no easy matter. There are a LOT of steps involved, and lots of legal work involved in the establishment of any organization.

The basics are to: a) achieve incorporation in a state. Each state has their own standards of incorporation; since we will be establishing out of Nebraska, we will be following NE standards. b) Remain incorporated for a minimum of 3 years. This is a standard enforced by the IRS; any and all tax documents from this period are thoroughly reviewed by the IRS during the application process. c) The filing of extensive IRS forms. You can get an idea of these forms by checking out the IRS’s requirements, or their Step-by-Step guide.

This takes a lot of hard work, and can be difficult for someone without a legal background to accomplish. In addition to user fees, AWN would also need to enlist the help of someone with that sort of background in order to reach 501c3 status.

3) Continue Our Current Projects. Since we opened the AWN website in January, we’ve seen a very positive response. Right now, we have a forum that provides a place for peer support and information sharing, Articles on topics of interest to Autistic females and our allies, and an events calendar to let people know about meet-ups, workshops, and other events. We hope to implement further features including private blogs with user defined privacy features in order to keep our members safe and still able to communicate their situations and needs.

In addition to our website, we also have a radio show hosted on Blog Talk Radio, a facebook page, and youtube and twitter accounts. Some of our chapters have also hosted events, such as the Autism Night Out in the Philadelphia area earlier this year.

The Pepsi Refresh Project allows you to vote once per day for any one project, with a total of 10 votes a day to spread out throughout the various projects. There are 4 different sections on the site: $5k, $25k, $50k, and $250k. AWN is in the $50k section- so any votes in the other 3 sections won’t count against us. For the $250k section, only two projects will win each month, but the other three only require you reach the top 10 in the section to win.

Here are some projects in the other sections that might be of interest:

In closing, I ask that you please vote for AWN once a day if you feel so moved, and to check out some of the other promising projects in the running this month.