Kelly Bron Johnson (00:00):
Welcome to episode 12 of the intersections on the spectrum podcast. The intersections on the spectrum podcast is the brain child of Doug Blecher and Kelly Bron Johnson created to discuss intersectional issues within the autistic community and give visibility to commonly marginalized, repressed, underrepresented, or erased identities and issues. We aim to introduce you to the people and stories you didn't know about, but needed to hear and hope that by seeing yourself represented in the community, allows you to feel seen
Doug Blecher (00:32):
Today. We get the pleasure to have Ayanna Davis as a guest, also known as phenomenally autistic. Ayanna, thanks so much for joining us.
Ayanna Davis (00:43):
Thanks so much for having me.
Doug Blecher (00:44):
So we all have many different identities and just wanting to learn at the beginning of, of this. What are the identities that you would say that describe you?
Speaker 1 (00:57):
Creative, friendly, I'm not shy, but I am very introverted until I get to know you. Then you probably will want me to shut up, but I'm a black woman, obviously neurodivergent, and full of art and full of love.
Kelly Bron Johnson (01:19):
Very cool. So we know that representation matters in all forms of media and you actually happen to be a children's book illustrator. And recently illustrated a book called my melanin: empowering young women of color to love themselves. How important do you think it is for young women of color to see themselves in books and film?
Ayanna Davis (01:41):
I think it's very important, because I do still think that women of color and women and girls are underrepresented on TV, television books, everywhere. I mean, I see the media trying, but I feel like they need to go a little harder for black women.
Ayanna Davis (01:59):
But, um, the reason I feel it's important is because, everybody deserves to see a positive representation of themself and deserves to see something positive that they can relate to. You don't know any situation that somebody can be in and they might just need to see that, there's hope and that tomorrow can be different and tomorrow will be better. So, everybody deserves that.
Kelly Bron Johnson (02:27):
And that, you know, what you were saying, the positive representation is what's so important. I think, you know, there's so much negative media out there. So the positive is so important.
Doug Blecher (02:38):
Whenever I think about representation, I think back to, um, a story I heard about, Roger, Roger Bannister, he's the first person to run the, like a mile in under four minutes or something like that. And like, so since he's run the mile, and people have actually been able to see him run a mile as fast as that, they there's been like 50 people or something like that, or crazy, crazy numbers. So I, you know, when we can, when we can see other humans, especially ones that look like us doing things, then that, that seems like can be a really powerful thing.
Ayanna Davis (03:21):
I think that, it, it actually is very powerful because sometimes before somebody sees somebody else doing something, they don't always know that it can be done. So to just see somebody like yourself, or even somebody not like yourself doing something that you might not have known could be done, it can push you forward and push you closer to your dreams and doing something that you aspire to do.
Doug Blecher (03:46):
I've read that. Um, well you mentioned it in the beginning that, art is, you know, being, you know, art is a powerful part of your identity. And I read that arts, been an escape for you, through, throughout your life. How important do you see, um, following your passion or your special interest of art being significant in your life?
Ayanna Davis (04:12):
It's very important because it is my main source of communication. If I have good or bad emotions, because you don't always know what to do with your good emotions, but if I have a good or bad emotions and I don't know where they can go, but I know for sure that they can go into my art. So it is, it's absolutely important to me because that is my main source of communication. Somebody, you know, might be going through something and you might not always have the right words. I know I don't always have the right words, but I can draw you a picture and I can express what I'm trying to say to you through art.
Kelly Bron Johnson (04:50):
You touched such an important point too, because especially relating to autism. A lot of the times when we might, uh, or children especially might have like a meltdown and the parent says, but I don't understand, you know, they were so excited.
Kelly Bron Johnson (05:06):
They really want to go to this place. And they were so excited before I said yes, because good emotions and energy and excitement can do the same things as negative, right?
Ayanna Davis (05:16):
Yes. Oh yeah. You can be overstimulated in a good way as well.
Kelly Bron Johnson (05:20):
Exactly. So, or, you know, we are waiting for something to happen and you're super excited and looking forward to it and then you get there and you're like, oh, it's too much. Um, yeah. So it's like, it's just that balance and understanding that, you know, emotions are emotions, energy is energy and it's how you channel it. That really makes a difference, you know? So you're challenging it into your art, which isamazing.
Ayanna Davis (05:41):
Kelly Bron Johnson (05:43):
So you also make art to pay tribute to Briana Taylor and George Floyd, and to bring awareness to police brutality. So what has been the response to that?
Ayanna Davis (05:54):
I did the art for Brianna Taylor and enjoyed George Floyd to pay tribute because I felt like that was the least I can do issues about police brutality and police killings of black people. It's not a new topic in my life. I've had family members who've been, beaten up and almost killed by the police. I've been a part of protests since I was about six years old because my dad has an organization who, who stands up to like equal rights for people. That was my way of paying tribute because it put me in a very weird Headspace to see that, um, we haven't come very far with racism in this country and I didn't know how to express that. Um, the response was very, I don't know if overwhelming is the word, but like people shared it, which I didn't expect. And, I'm always grateful though, left a lot of comments.
Ayanna Davis (06:53):
Sent it to people they knew. So while I did it to get my emotions out, other people shared it and other people thanked me for doing it. So I just felt like that was like the least that I can do. I mean, they lost their lives and people are still continuing to lose their lives because, you know, the police thinks they're untouchable, especially when it comes to killing black people.
Kelly Bron Johnson (07:15):
Yeah, for sure. What's that was that process. Was it like healing for you? Do you feel...?
Ayanna Davis (07:20):
that process, um, was healing, but it didn't heal the situation, but it helped me get some of my emotions out. I just feel like how scary. Is it to just get ready for bed at night and not know if the police are going to kill you when you're asleep, when you know that you did absolutely nothing but exist, be black and get ready for bed and go to sleep.
Ayanna Davis (07:49):
So, um, while it was healing, it didn't completely heal the situation, but it helped me get my emotions out because I mean, we were already like, the country was like in a state of trauma already, so, um, that just like added to it and it, it helped, but it, it was like a, it was like a process, like a process that I had to go through to like, get it out on paper. Like I couldn't just sit down and do it all at once, which I can usually do. I can usually just sit down and do a picture. It doesn't take very long. Those took a little bit longer. Usually I'll do a picture and I'm like, I'll, I'll love it the first time. But these, I actually did a few different times because I was just like, I just want it to be as perfect as possible because you know, nothing's ever perfect. But in my mind, I was like, I need this. Perfect.
Kelly Bron Johnson (08:43):
I think, um, that's another good point you brought up was the fact that these are not new issues matter. I have not noticed for whatever reason for people that have a certain amount of privilege was saying that these things are new. You know, this is not a new issue. I know, you know, I'm glad. So I'm glad that you're, you're bringing some awareness to that as well with our work.
Ayanna Davis (09:05):
Doug Blecher (09:07):
You were mentioning earlier about art as communication for you and I, I wanted to talk a little bit more about that because my partner, she's an art therapist, so I've learned how powerful art can be as, um, communication tools. How do you, do you have a sense of like, if, if you weren't able to kind of, um, communicate through the art, paying tribute to Brianna and George Floyd, how, you know, how you'd be able to build to kind of deal with those emotions?
Ayanna Davis (09:40):
Well, I do art therapy every day. I don't know what, how I would have got those emotions out. I don't know how I would have been able to deal with that if I didn't have my main source of communication, which is art, I probably only would have, would only been able to like tweet justice for George Floyd or justice for Brianna Taylor. I probably wouldn't have been able to reach farther beyond and do anything more than that. Like, since that's like, I felt like that was the best I can do.
Doug Blecher (10:11):
There's many, um, you know, autistic people that I've met that are talented artists that love creating art. Do you have any suggestions for those that may want to be pursuing a career as an illustrator?
Ayanna Davis (10:27):
Yeah. And I always say this, um, I would just tell them to go for it and tell them to do not accept the limitations that other people will try to put on you. Um, I am guilty of that. I have let people stop me from fulfilling dreams and going after dreams and working on dreams. So I would just say, definitely go for it. Don't let anybody limit you. And, um, to like, to, to believe in yourself, I have days where I do not believe in myself at all, but you know, I'm getting better and believing in myself more and more every day. So I would just say, go for it and believe in yourself. And don't let people limit you.
Kelly Bron Johnson (11:07):
And that's probably one of the big issues, not just in the autism community, but in disability community in general, is people having these ideas about what we can achieve, what we're capable of, you know,
Ayanna Davis (11:19):
yeah, because sometimes they don't take you seriously.
Ayanna Davis (11:23):
Like if you want to do something, um, they'll be like, oh, that's cute. And they'll just move on. And they won't try to like, even help you with it. And it's just like me just thankfully I have like a support system. So it's just like, I don't appreciate people, not taking somebody serious because they have a developmental delay or their neurodivergent and, you know, have other conditions that come with being on the spectrum. So, I mean, it's disrespectful first of, but, um, yeah, the, the limits people will try to put on you. That's unfair because like, like no offense to people who aren't neurodivergent, but sometimes we have higher IQs than you do. So you shouldn't try to put limits on people.
Kelly Bron Johnson (12:07):
Yeah. It doesn't even have to be, IQ, but it can just things like some of the talents because of our brain is yeah. You know, wired differently. Yeah. Wired very differently, you know? So we just have some talents and it's like, that's a whole other conversation.
Kelly Bron Johnson (12:25):
So also an Instagram account, you mentioned that you are a dreamer, so what are you dreaming about these days?
Ayanna Davis (12:32):
Well, right now I'm actually living my dream, which is to just be going after my dreams and going after the things that I said that I wanted to do in life. So it's just, for me, it's a day-to-day basis. Like, you know, I might wake up tomorrow and be like, I want to go parasailing. So that'd be my dream for the day with me. It's always, uh, a day-to-day thing because I do have a lot of physical health issues as well. So, um, I just take things day by day and I'm thankful for each day. And yeah, I might wake up with a new dream each day and I might wake up and be like, okay, yesterday dream, I'm going to put that on hold for a little while and go after this. So with me, it's, it's a day-to-day thing. Yeah.
Doug Blecher (13:16):
You, you also, um, I saw on your Instagram, you were wearing a really cool shirt that said stories that matter. So what types of stories matter to you that you would think might be important for a podcast like ours to highlight?
Ayanna Davis (13:35):
Yeah. Story that matters. I'm actually a brand ambassador for them. Um, it's an organization founded by Jay what we'd field. And, um, they highlight just different people's stories and life, because I feel like everybody's story is important. And I also feel like something shouldn't have to like, um, directly affect you for it to be important to you or for it to matter to you because like nobody's pain is worth more than the next person's and you should never invalidate somebody's pain because well, this one may have had it worse or like, like I just, I just feel like anything that's important to somebody and that they're passionate about. I feel like those are the things that matter, and it may not be serious as somebody, but if it matters to somebody and it's in their heart and they're passionate about it, I feel like they should be seen and heard and their stories should be told.
Ayanna Davis (14:29):
And that's like another reason why, like, I really love that my story is that matters family. They support me. Um, they believe in me, they don't only like support me because I'm a brand ambassador for them, but they're just, they just really care about, um, humans and they have a, a respect for human life.
Kelly Bron Johnson (14:49):
Nice. So for people want to see your artwork and know more about you. Um, they can go to Phenomenally Autistic on Instagram. And are you available other places as well? Um, yes. Phenomenally Autistic on YouTube and phenomenally on Arctic talk. I actually, um, post a lot of drawing videos there. All right. Very cool.
Doug Blecher (15:14):
Ayanna, thanks so much for joining us today. Really enjoyed the conversation.
Ayanna Davis (15:19):
Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it as well.
Kelly Bron Johnson (15:22):