Our leadership & support team
Oluwatobi Maeyen Odugunwa, Program Coordinator
Oluwatobi Maeyen Odugunwa joined the Fund as Program Coordinator in 2022. They originally joined us as Movement Power Intern through the 2021 Power Up Internship Program (a project of SolidarityIs and the Building Movement Project).
Oluwatobi is a recent college graduate who currently works as an anti-bias reviewer and editor at a publishing company. As a multiply marginalized person, they have been involved in social justice work since a young age. Oluwatobi was most recently a student advocate and organizer for LGBTQ rights, and as an autistic wheelchair user, they are now looking to get involved in local disability justice work. They spend most of their days playing with their cat, listening to indie rock, knitting, playing videogames, or reading (sometimes all at the same time). Oluwatobi’s favorite stims are rocking, flapping, and echolalia.
Finn Gardiner, Director of Policy & Advocacy
Finn Gardiner joined the Fund as Director of Policy & Advocacy in 2022. Finn is a Boston-based queer, Black, and disabled writer, designer, community organizer, speaker, editor, researcher, advocate, activist, and artist. Finn has a Master of Public Policy degree from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Tufts University. He’s spoken at the White House’s 2016 LGBTQ Disability Day, the United Nations’ World Autism Day event in 2019, and other venues.
Finn has an extensive background in policy advocacy and communications—before joining the Fund, he worked as a communications specialist for the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, and before that, he was a policy fellow at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Finn’s professional interests include inclusive education, competitive and integrated employment, accessible technology, cognitive accessibility, housing justice, and community living—though that’s only a small sampling. He’s especially proud of his ability to tackle thorny matters of policy and make them easier to understand.
Iola Kostrzewski, Community Organizing Fellow
Iola Kostrzewski joins the Fund through the Jewish Organizing Institute & Network (JOIN for Justice) inaugural Jews of Color Organizing Fellowship cohort for the 2023-2024 cycle.
They are a Black and nonbinary activist and former candidate for local elected office.
At the Fund, Iola’s work will focus on building and strengthening informal networks of disabled BIPOC focused on economic empowerment, mutual aid, and collective care.
They began working with the Fund as Community Organizing Fellow in May 2023.
Iola is the Fund’s first community organizer on staff.
Lydia X. Z. Brown, Founder & Volunteer Executive Director
Lydia X. Z. Brown is the founder and volunteer executive director of the Fund. They are an advocate, organizer, educator, writer, and attorney whose work focuses on interpersonal and state violence targeting disabled people at the margins of the margins, especially at the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Currently, they are working on a project to reimagine the tarot as representing and speaking to/from sick, mad, neurodivergent, crip, and disabled people’s lives and experiences, called Disability Justice Wisdom Tarot.
Bella Carlucci, Operations Assistant
Mill Valley, California & Washington, D.C.
Bella Carlucci is the Fund’s Operations Assistant. She is a student at Georgetown University studying Psychology with minors in Disability Studies and Music. She began volunteering for the Fund in March 2020 after being sent home from school as as result of the COVID 19 pandemic. Although she originally started by doing remote work in her hometown, Mill Valley, California, Bella continued to work with the Fund while she studied remotely in Washington DC. Aside from working with the Fund, Bella is a big supporter of performing arts and enjoys singing, acting, and playing piano. Most recently she was in a live performance of The Wolves and an online performance of Man of La Mancha with Georgetown’s student run theater groups. In her free time, Bella enjoys cooking with her family, spending quality time with her friends, and taking long walks with her dog.
Victoria Espino, Policy Intern
Victoria is the Fall 2023 Policy Intern. She joins the Fund from The CALL (Capitol Applied Learbing Labs) at Georgetown University.
Sara María Acevedo, Disability Organizing & Research Fellow / Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at Miami University / Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Global Gender & Sexuality Studies at the University of Buffalo
Sara María Acevedo is a disability justice scholar-activist partnering with the Fund on programming to honor disability justice leaders and cultural workers in the present. She provided critical support to the Fund in Spring 2019. She is Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at Miami University in Ohio. She is currently leading a project on neurodivergent culture and autonomous forms of governance with support from the Ford Foundation’s Disability Rights Program. Sara served a three-year term with the board of directors of the Society for Disability Studies, with whom she led the creation of the organization’s 15 principles. She currently serves on the editorial boards of Disability and the Global South and Ought: The Journal of Autistic Culture.
Sharon daVanport, Founding Executive Director of the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
Sharon daVanport is Founder and Executive Director of the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. They provide nonprofit expertise as well as general administrative and financial support for the Fund, since AWN is the fiscal sponsor and partner organization of the Fund. Sharon is also a steering committee member of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, represents AWN on the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, and serves on the advisory board for Felicity House. They have spoken before the United Nations and the White House, and received recognition from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Autism Society. Sharon is also co-editor along with Emily Paige Ballou and Kristina Thomas of What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew, published by AWN. Outside of Sharon’s work in autistic advocacy, they have nearly a decade of experience as a social worker, and they are a parent of four diversely neurodivergent adults.
Rieko Shepherd, Staff Attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia / Disability x Tech Fund Fellow
Rieko Shepherd is a Staff Attorney in the Health and Independence Unit of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. Part of her work focuses on analyzing the use of algorithmic decision-making systems, automated tools and other artificial intelligence applications used in benefits eligibility determinations. This work is supported through fellowship funding from the inaugural Disability x Tech Fund hosted by Borealis Philanthropy’s Disability Inclusion Fund. The Autistic People of Color Fund provides support, mentorship, and community engagement for this work. Rieko is a civil rights advocate with a passion for centering and uplifting marginalized populations. As a Black and Asian woman, she grew up navigating an array of challenges imposed by her intersectional identity in a nation state marred by deep structural inequities. This lived reality has strengthened her resolve to proactively target systems of oppression through legislative advocacy rather than solely relying on reactive measures in the aftermath of harm. She has considerable experience in civil litigation and has advocated for educational equity with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee and Lawyers for Children. Formerly, Rieko was also a Policy Manager at the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. Before her legal career, she taught high school as well as early childhood education in addition to training as a musician.
Our past leadership & support team members
Natalia M. Rivera Morales (she/her) joined the Fund as Research Coordinator from 2022-2023. Natalia holds a doctorate degree in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to graduate school, she was the Leadership Programs Coordinator for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). In this capacity, she organized leadership and advocacy training programs for Autistic college students and self-advocates with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). She also served as board Secretary for the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective (WMDSC) from 2014 to 2016. Natalia is now a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for the Lit/Crit Collaboratory at George Washington University.
rooklyn, New York
Mira L. Bhattacharya was the Fund’s 2023 Public Policy Fellow. She is from Brooklyn, NY. She is a physician assistant (PA) student at the Franklin Pierce Hybrid PA Program and a graduate of Fordham University where she majored in psychology, minored in disability studies and bioethics. Mira recently completed a fellowship at National Disability Institute focused on disability justice, economic justice, and public policy. Mira aims to increase access to healthcare for individuals from underserved communities, including who are neurodivergent and disabled. Furthermore, Mira is biracial and identifies as disabled and neurodivergent, as well as an LGBTQIA+ ally. Mira would like to use her personal experiences to advocate for other individuals with disabilities, particularly those with intersecting identities. Her special interests are Broadway/musical theatre and jigsaw puzzles, and she enjoys practicing taekwondo.
Tony Alexander joined the Fund as the inaugural Director of Policy & Advocacy in 2021, and served in that role through 2022. He has spent the last several years working with nonprofit and community-based organizations, assisting with their advocacy, community engagement, and policy analysis needs. Tony received his JD from Northeastern University of School of Law and BA in American Studies with a Sociology concentration from Ursinus College. He is most passionate about using collective organizing and policy advocacy through an intersectional lens as drivers for change and empowerment for fellow disabled and multiply-marginalized individuals. A metro Atlanta native, Tony currently resides in Los Angeles with his partner and four dogs. Tony is now a Program Associate at Communication FIRST.
Cường Mạnh Phạm joined the Fund in Summer 2022 as Community Engagement & Development Fellow through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Professional Fellows Program of the American Council of Young Political Leaders. Full-time, he is a Programs Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning Officer at The Adventist Development and Relief Agency. In this role, he manages development and relief projects and conducts evaluations to assess their impact. Cường received his bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of the West of England in Hanoi.
Shreya Iyer joined the Fund through the Fall 2021 experiential learning semester program of The CALL (Capitol Applied Learning Labs), a program of Georgetown University. She was a policy intern at the Fund. She was a sophomore at Georgetown University majoring in English and planning to minor in Justice and Peace Studies. She began her internship during the summer of 2021.
Helen Kovary, Claudette Soler, and Bailey Kroner contributed Spanish language translations in Spring 2021 as part of Julia Isaac‘s course “Intro to Spanish Translation” at American University. Helen is a junior majoring in Sociology and minoring in International Studies., passionate about identity studies, Latin American affairs, and social justice. Bailey is a senior studying psychology, Spanish, and education, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast, Ice Cream lover, and food connoisseur. Claudette is a senior journalism student with a passion for news writing and truth-telling.
Anna Lehr joined us from Dr. Sara M. Acevedo’s Spring 2021 course “Allies and Activists” at Miami University.
Anna shared with us: “I am a junior Marketing major and Supply Chain minor at Miami University. I am also the President of the Miami University Real Estate Club. I am from Charlotte, North Carolina. Some of my passions traveling, cooking, playing with my dog. I am really excited to be working with the Autistic People of Color Fund this semester!”
Ngozi shared with us: “I am a Black disabled community organizer based in North Jersey. My organizing experience started with electoral campaigns and now am engaged with movement based work focusing on abolition, disability justice, and Black liberation. I love coloring and dreaming about abolition.”
Nyanna Williams was a Junior at Miami University studying Sociology and Spanish.
Nyanna joined us from Dr. Sara M. Acevedo’s Fall 2020 course “(Dis)Ability Allies: To be or not to be? Developing Identity and Pride from Practice.” She supported the Fund in developing social media content.
In Summer 2020, we welcomed Bella Carlucci (Georgetown University), Cass J. Sicherer (Rutgers Law School), Christiana Koch (alumn of ASAN’s Autism Campus Inclusion leadership academy), Jess L. Wilcox Cowing (College of William & Mary), and Vejas Vasiliauskas (Loyola Marymount University) to our volunteer operations team.
Adie Baez was volunteer Operations Assistant for the Fund from 2020 through 2021. She is a disability rights advocate, social sciences researcher, and longtime volunteer for the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation. She has also completed policy fellowships with two other D.C.-area disability nonprofit organizations. Adie holds a master’s of social and personality psychology from American University, and a bachelor’s in psychology from Butler University. Her research interests include health psychology and coping in the realm of disability, and her master’s thesis, Body Image as a Moderator of Disability and Resilience, investigated the role body image has on coping and resilience factors in those with congenital conditions.
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu was formerly Grants Selection Chair for the Fund from 2018 to 2020, representing the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network. They are a nationally recognized HIV advocate, and previously led the Committee on Autism, Race, and Ethnicity at AWN, served as a board member of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and co-edited the anthology All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism. Morénike serves as a board member of Foundations for Divergent Minds, and as an advisory board member for Felicity House and the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities. chairperson of both a large HRSA-funded local planning body and an international NIH-funded community research network. They are the founder of Advocacy Without Borders, a grassroots education, community advocacy, and self-empowerment initiative. American-born to immigrant parents, Morénike is a community advocate and social justice activist living in Texas. Their wonderful children – biological, foster, and adopted – who range in age from 9 to 18 years old, are Morénike’s greatest accomplishment. As a Black Autistic person in a multicultural, neurodiverse, sero-different family of color, Morénike is a firm supporter of human rights and involved in a myriad of social justice activism endeavors including HIV-related advocacy, disability rights, learning via technology, research, refugee and minority youth outreach, gender and racial justice, and inclusion promotion. They hold a master’s of special education with a concentration in autism and developmental delays from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and affairs from the United States International University, San Diego. They are currently a doctoral student in an educational leadership program, and teach developmental education courses as full-time faculty.
Community members in solidarity
We’ve also received support in various ways from many other broader community members, and from many other people among AWN’s leadership, staff, and volunteers.
Among the many, many others whose work has helped the fund grow past and present, we particularly appreciate the support and solidarity of Anna McClain, Deepinder (Deepa) K. Goraya, E. Ashkenazy, Kylee Jones, Lori Berkowitz, Megan E. Kennedy, Nechama F. Sammet Moring, and Shain A. M. Neumeier.