Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Activist's Wish List For Yearlong Gift Giving

On New Year's Day 2014, I wondered if I could make some changes to how I lived my life that would benefit others while adding knowledge, joy and beauty to our lives. I decided to make a conscious decision to assess my buying needs well and shop  through neurodivergent vendors whenever possible.  I called it my Buy Neurodivergent challenge. I saw it as a new step in the Amplify project.

 In this effort to support micro businesses run by neurodivergent people and their allies, I thought it best to go beyond the term "buy autistic" and include everyone who has divergent neurology. I tried to live as frugally as possible and saved up for a series of lovely purchases. Books, photographs, art, and artwork on customized t-shirts, in short all things that were created by neurodivergent artists, photographers and authors, seemed a great place to start.

During this process, I wanted to get something amazing for my husband, but I wanted to follow my own commitment to making this a buy neurodivergent purchase. I reached out to Alyssa at Because Patterns and asked if she could create a poster of her now famous Autism Acceptance pattern. This is the result:
Image of a large poster with fractal pattern in the shape of a globe with stylized humans
colored navy blue standing on it circumventing it and in the upper right hand corner a larger human
figure in orange with flapping hands on a sky blue field with stylized clouds  all framed in silver art
©Alyssa Hillary

When the theatre ad sized poster was hung it could be seen by anyone walking past his office door.
same poster is hanging in an open office. A bookshelf, teal office chair, tan desk and
charcoal chair can be seen as wellas a partial view of two black flat screen computer monitors. 
What one can't see from the photograph is that the colors are so vibrant that people stop to stare and as a result read the inscription on the bottom of the pattern:

“Much like the bright orange Autistic person flapping here, Autistic people stand out. We’re completely distinguishable from our peers, as we’re meant to be. We don’t need to be just like everyone else, but be accepted as the unique people we are. Accept Autistics”  -- Alyssa Hillary

The size, colors, quote and overall beauty of the piece is having a greater impact on those who see it than any action I could take as an activist could. Viewers are engaged, informed, and also mesmerized by an arresting pattern. My husband loved this the first time he saw it and I had been wanting to purchase it ever since. We are now wishing we had commissioned one for the house as well. It is that arrestingly beautiful.

I have some other wonderful purchases I'll probably speak about as well in time. But the thing that struck me the most about what happened this year, is the reaction to what my family purchased. More people asked me what "Autistic Giraffe Party" and "Neurodiversity" meant than have read my blog posts. I realized books laid out on a coffee table or bookshelf grab the eye and cause curious people to flip through pages. What people wear does say a great deal. So I thought I would take things up a notch.

Beginning with this holiday season and hopefully for all of 2015, I want to encourage everyone to share my final wish, that we all try to buy and promote neurodivergent goods and services as much as we are able to afford it. This is a positive act of activism that helps our community and reaches out to those seeking knowledge and understanding.  It grabs their attention, their hearts and minds.

For anyone who wishes to do some last minute holiday shopping, as well as those who want to give my activist's Buy Neurodivergent Challenge a try in 2015, PACLA (Parenting Autistic Children With Love and Acceptance) has made a holiday shopping guide.
To view it, click here.

I think the guide could be expanded and include more books, gifts and services for parents as well as things like gifting say a few lessons at  Aikido Shusekai, from Nick Walker Sensei and Azzia Walker Sensei  , or gifting a sensory friendly concert from The Musical Autist. I would have loved to see music from KripHop Nation. Michael Scott Monje, jr's books were great to see there. More diversity in offerings would have been welcome. It is good to see start ups like Stimtastic listed. Music producer Mike Buckholtz has both a book and a nonprofit, I would have liked to have seen a way to include this as well.

Author and photographer Jane Strauss's (Jane's photography site, Jane's Prints is feature in PACLA's shopping guide)  effort, Buy Autistic, can be found here. Whatever list is built, I hope that spoken word poetry, baked goods, and neurodivergent speakers services are included.

I will be updating this to add more to the listing and eventually consolidate this all into a year long list of places where art, books, crafts, clothes, other goods and services can be bought for our own enjoyment that can also send a powerful educational message to those around us while helping our community prosper. Happy Holidays, blessings and peace to all.

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