Keynote Speakers

Lydia X. Z. Brown is a disability justice advocate, organizer, and writer whose work has largely focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially institutionalization, incarceration, and policing. They are currently a Justice Catalyst Fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law where they represent disabled students in Maryland facing school pushout, disproportionate discipline, and criminalization. In collaboration with E. Ashkenazy and Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu, Lydia is the lead editor of All the Weight of Our Dreams, the first-ever anthology by autistic people of color and otherwise negatively racialized autistic people, published by the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. Morénike and Lydia also co-direct the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment, which provides direct support and mutual aid to individual autistic people of color. Lydia has received numerous awards for their work, including from the White House, American Association of People with Disabilities, and Society for Disability Studies, and has written for several community and academic publications.


Melanie Yergeau is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan. Her book, Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness, was published by Duke University Press in 2018 and was awarded the 2018 Modern Language Association First Book Prize and the 2019 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship. Her academic interests include digital rhetoric and disability studies, and, more specifically, what the neurodiversity movement has to teach us about learning, writing, and being. She has served on the board of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), a nonprofit organization run for and by autistic people, as well as the board of the Autism National Committee (AutCom).




Hamja Ahsan is an activist, writer, curator and artist based in London. His first book is Shy Radicals: Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert (2017), was commissioned by Book Works as part of its Common Objectives series. Shy Radicals is work of a “speculative activism” that imagines and draws together communiqués, covert interviews, and underground histories of introvert struggles (“Introfadas”), the Shy Underground, and the Shy People’s Republic of Aspergistan: “an independent Pan-Shyist state representing the interests of all Shy, Introvert and Autistic Spectrum peoples.” He is also a campaigner for prisoners, human rights, and civil liberties under the global “War on Terror,” and was shortlisted for a Liberty Human Rights Award for his innovative use of art and film in political prisoners campaigns. He co-founded DIY Cultures Festival—the UK’s largest festival of zines and activism—which has run annually since 2013. He has presented art projects at the Tate Modern, Gwangju Biennale, Guild Gallery in New York, Shaanakht Festival in Pakistan, and Shlipa Academy in Bangladesh.


Cyree Jarelle Johnson is a writer and librarian living in New York City. His first book of poetry, SLINGSHOT, will be published by Nightboat Books in 2019. He is currently an Undergraduate Creative Writing Teaching Fellow at Columbia University, where he is also a candidate for an MFA. His work has appeared recently in The New York Times and WUSSY. He has given speeches and lectures at The White House, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The University of Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, Tufts University, and Mother Bethel AME Church, among other venues. Cyree Jarelle has received fellowships and grants from Culture/Strike, Leeway Foundation, Astraea Foundation, Rewire.News/Disabled Writers, Columbia University, and the Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund. He is a founding member of The Harriet Tubman Collective and The Deaf Poets Society.


Jina B. Kim is an Assistant Professor of English Language & Literature and the Study of Women & Gender at Smith College. She specializes in feminist disability studies, women-of-color feminisms/queer-of-color critique and contemporary ethnic U.S. literatures with an emphasis on feminist-of-color writing and cultural expression post-1968. She is currently at work on a manuscript, Anatomy of the City: Race, Disability, and U.S. Fictions of Dependency, which examines how multiethnic U.S. literatures situated in post-Reagan cities recuperate the maligned condition of public dependency.




Diana Paulin is Associate Professor of American Studies and English at Trinity College. Her first book, Imperfect Unions: Staging Miscegenation in US Drama and Fiction, won the Errol Hill Award for Outstanding Scholarship in African American Theatre Studies. She has continued to examine how race intersects with other aspects of identity by addressing topics, such as racial performance, critical autism studies and race, and race and sexuality, in her research, publications, teaching, and presentations. More recently, she presented work on race and disability at the MLA, the ASA, and at the SDS (Society for Disability Studies); Paulin also published a commentary on the intersections of Disability Studies and Critical Race Studies in Disability Studies Quarterly. She is currently working on a book project entitled: Black Autism.





Nic John Ramos is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University affiliated with the Department of Africana Studies and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. He is a scholar of the history of medicine and urban policy. His work contributes to the growing scholarship on racial capitalism by bringing together the discourses of feminist, queer, and disability studies with political economy. His book project examines how post-1965 health institutions produced and legitimated new ways of seeing race and sexuality that split communities of color between a “multicultural mainstream” and a “permanent underclass” by the 1980s.



Spectrum Theatre Ensemble is a group of theatre artists, both neurotypical and on the autism spectrum, based in Providence, RI. The company was founded in 2017 by Clay B. Martin, PJ Miller, and a diverse group of individuals who share a common belief: that the theatre provides a unique venue for the understanding and inclusion of all, and that our society and culture are stronger for it. By producing relevant and high-quality productions and workshops, STE aims to engage both artists and audiences to develop social skills, empathy, and understanding, and to spread the message of inclusion all over the world.