The Beauty of Being Different

Re-Route Magazine
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8 min read
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May 18, 2024

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Photo of Ayanna Davis, a young attractive black woman, posing in a red dress. Her hair is in long braids, she is wearing earrings, leopard print shoes. One leg is crossed over the other.The backdrop is red. Text reads: Phenomenally Autistic

Photo of Ayanna Davis smiling. Text reads: Awareness and acceptance of neurodivergence are spreading, and at the forefront of this positive movement is Ayanna Davis. As an autistic artist, she has touched countless lives with her powerful message of self-acceptance, celebrating diversity, and fostering inclusivity. Fearlessly challenging societal norms, Ayanna stands as a driving force for positive transformation, igniting hope for a more compassionate world.  Reflecting on her formative years, Ayanna shared, "I always sensed my differences but lacked understanding. I was often perceived as the 'weird, awkward, black girl,' when in reality, my struggles stemmed from anxiety and overstimulation. It was only seven years ago that I received my autism diagnosis, and it was a complete revelation. The lack of representation for black autistics, particularly black autistic women, inspired me to advocate for greater visibility."  Throughout her childhood, Ayanna found solace in art, which became her refuge and means of self-expression. "Art was always my saving grace," she shares. "It was my only friend, a place to hide. If I couldn't express myself through speaking, I could always express myself through drawing." Ayanna's favorite medium is drawing, and her illustrations have graced numerous books and art shows, captivating audiences with her unique style and creative expression.
Ayanna Davis posing in a blue dress.
Picture on the top right is an art piece by Ayanna Davis, a digital drawing of a black female wearing a black dress and a crown. Above her head is written "Ayanna's Art", at the bottom the word FASHION is written.Picture bottom is a portrait of Ayanna Davis wearing a top where the words "988 CALL 988 FOR MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT" Text reads: Ayanna's advocacy work is deeply rooted in this same spirit: a desire to uplift and empower young black individuals, encouraging them to embrace their culture and features with pride. Recognizing the lack of visibility for black autists, Ayanna understands the importance of knowledge and early intervention. By increasing awareness, parents can recognize behavioral patterns and seek professional help for their children at an early age, allowing for timely interventions and support.  In her quest for representation and increasing awareness, Ayanna has authored and illustrated over 20 books, including coloring books like We Are Magical, that celebrate the beauty of black children. She firmly believes in the power of inclusion and diversity, ensuring everyone can see themselves reflected in the world around them.  My Melanin: Empowering Young Women of Color to Love Themselves by Celebrating Their Beautiful Features promotes self-love, empowering young readers to embrace their identities and celebrate their unique qualities. Because representation matters, Ayanna authored Avery and Avi Go To Grandma's House. This beautifully illustrated story is important as it provides a relatable narrative for young black children. Ayanna's intention behind writing this book was to fill the void of diverse and positive black imagery in children's literature.
Ayanna Davis posing in a patterned dress against a yellow background. The dress is off the shoulder and is purple, yellow, and red. It is full length and sweeps the floor.
Picture top left is a digital drawing by Ayanna Davis, it represents a black female wearing the Pan-African colors. Around her, we can read "Juneteenth June 19th 1865". Picture top right: portrait of Ayanna Davis holding a squared cardboard with "ONE YEAR SEIZURE FREE" written on it. Picture bottom left: Ayanna Davis posing in a brown outfit with white boots. Picture bottom right is a digital drawing by Ayanna Davis representing five young females characters with distinctive skin complexions. At the bottom of the drawing, we read "Representation Matters". Text reads: While progress has been made in increasing representation in the entertainment industry, Ayanna recognizes that there is still work to be done. To achieve better representation of autist performers, she advocates for involving autist individuals at every stage of production. "They can increase inclusion of autist material by including autist writers, directors, producers, actors, and advisors," she suggests. By engaging those with lived experiences, the entertainment industry can avoid perpetuating stereotypes and offer more authentic portrayals of autism.  Ayanna offers aspiring artists simple yet profound advice: stay true to yourself and your art. She encourages artists to persist in sharing their work, regardless of the number of likes or recognition received. "Keep posting and get it out there," she urges, highlighting the importance of perseverance and self-belief.
Ayanna is posing in a floral off the shoulder dress in purple, blue, yellow and gold. Her hands are on her hips. Her hair is up in a ponytail and she is wearing ornate long gold earrings. She has three blue butterfly hair clips in her hair.
Ayanna Davis posing in a lilac dress. Text reads: In the coming months, Ayanna has an exciting lineup of projects. She is currently finishing up two books—one focused on autism and the other centered around positive affirmations for young girls. Collaborating with a fantastic author, she is also immersed in illustrating a new book that promises to captivate readers with her artistic talent. Additionally, Ayanna has recently launched her own merchandise, allowing supporters to carry a piece of her empowering message wherever they go.  Ayanna's aspirations extend beyond her personal endeavors. She envisions a world where autist individuals, particularly those from black communities, receive the recognition and support they deserve. Her hopes are anchored in increased visibility and understanding, leading to earlier interventions and improved opportunities for autist children. Ayanna's warm, compassionate tone and determination have left an indelible mark on all who have the privilege of hearing her story. Through her advocacy work, Ayanna is breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and amplifying the voices of those who have been marginalized for far too long. Ayanna's work reminds us of the beauty and value of diversity. Her story highlights the importance of celebrating our differences and embracing individuality. By promoting love and inclusivity, we can create a more compassionate and accepting society where everyone feels valued and appreciated for exactly who they are.
Ayanna Davis posing in a patterned outfit. The background is purple. a rainbow goes from her left hand to her right hand, both open toward the sky.

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