GREATER TORONTO AREA – For the past two years, Jantzson Tinglin and his mother Carolyn have run the Youth Alliance for Intersectional Justice (YAIJ), an organization serving Black, neurodiverse youth across the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver. With a handful of board members and approximately 15 to 20 youth participants, YAIJ provides various opportunities for those involved, including social events, workshops, and employment programs.
“We provide programs such as social gatherings, game nights, workshops, self-help, and education for neurodiverse youth,” Tinglin said, explaining that they also work with youth living with physical disabilities.
Tinglin explained that living in British Columbia, he often felt like the only Black neurodiverse youth in his community. Trying to combat this, his mother enrolled him in various groups and clubs. But Tinglin explained that he still felt very alone.
“So I decided to create a group where we could all connect, but not just any neurodiverse youth, Black neurodiverse youth. I mainly formulated this group because I didn’t want anyone to feel how I did,” Tinglin explained.
“I was bullied for quite a while, from primary to high school. And I’ve dealt with a lot of things that no one should have to deal with. I didn’t want anyone like me having to deal with that ever.”
Tinglin says it’s rewarding to see the group growing, however it’s not his main goal.
“Even one person in our program is enough. It’s enough to let us know that we’re making a difference in someone’s life.”
But he says it’s exciting to see more people finding a place where they feel comfortable.
“Right now we’re just getting started, but I hope more youth can join our programs and group in general. Just so that they can feel safe, and not feel alone in the world or like they have to pretend to be someone else that their not just so they can survive in a society that’s not designed for them.”
Tinglin told The Brandon Gonez Show that he wanted to create a space specifically tailored for Black neurodiverse youth, who often face additional barriers compared to their white counterparts.
“People of colour, they are taken advantage of a lot more than caucasian individuals. It’s not just Black neurodiverse youth, it’s other racialized youth as well.”
Tinglin said he wishes everyone knew that having autism isn’t a bad thing.
“Having autism is nothing to write off, it’s something to acknowledge. Because sometimes we neurodiverse individuals may not understand certain situations, we may not think at the same level, [but] we just want to be accepted and understood.”
Tinglin added that he wants people to see all that neurodiverse youth can offer and the potential they have.
“As much as autism is a gift, it’s somewhat of a curse as well. It’s something that we have to live with for the rest of our lives, and some people may see us as potential threats to ourselves or others. Or we don’t really have a life that’s going to go anywhere, but really and truly you would be surprised at how much potential neurodiverse youth have.”
To honour World Autism Month, throughout the month of April YAIJ is rolling out “Stronger Together – Building More Inclusive Autism Networks. This social media campaign aims to highlight how having an intersectional approach to autism services enhances them, making them less tokenized and allowing them to meet the needs of a variety of neurodivergent youth. The campaign will focus on different topics, including education equity, employment, belonging, and technology.
Additionally, YAIJ is hosting a bunch of different social events, including bowling, laser tag, and virtual tours of AI platforms designed to support the well-being of autistic students.
Let’s leave some love for YAIJ and Jantzon Tinglin in the comments.