Enthusiastic two hand wave, gentle (or tight) hugs, fist bump of solidarity, or whatever greetings you prefer! I’m glad to be here with all of you. For those of you who do not know me, I’m Morénike, the newest ASAN Board member. I have been involved in autistic advocacy for a few years now (shout out to AWN, Intersected, and BAS!), but I had been an advocate for various causes for many years prior to becoming part of the autistic community. Frankly, my entry into autistic advocacy was quite accidental; if my daughter (and later, my son) had not been diagnosed as autistic, it’s possible that I may never had either, as discovering their neurology helped me to discover my own. This journey has been a paradigm shift not only for me, but for my entire family. We have learned so much not only about ourselves, but also about society. We’ve encountered several good things – and good people. But we’ve also seen a lot of bad too – the filicide, the ableism, the racial and gender biases, the stigma.
During the initial years of self-exploration (and even to this day), engaging with others in the autistic community immensely enriched my life. As a parent, I believe supportive families are critical and that family advocacy can be very helpful – but as an autistic person, I can’t emphasize enough how necessary it is for us to be “front and center.” We cannot make radical change if we are at the periphery of our own causes. This is why I am grateful to work with ASAN; “Nothing About Us Without Us” is a call to action, not merely a slogan. Though no person, community, or organization is without its flaws, I am excited about the possibilities of being able to join my voice with that of other autistic leaders that I respect and admire as we seek a better future (and present) for autistic people.
I believe that all of the autistic-run organizations in our community play a role and that they all have value, though we might have different objectives and don’t always agree. Similarly, I don’t expect anyone to always agree with me. However, I hope my perspective – which is that of a proud Autistic female who is unapologetically Black, Christian, twice exceptional, advocate, and a mom – will be helpful in our autistic community. There’s been a lot of progress in recent years, but there’s also a lot that still needs to be done; I want to help as much as I can. I won’t always get it right, and I won’t always have the answer, but I will give my best and I will give my all…always.