Black in Autism

  • Speakers
  • Brian BoydDirector of Juniper Gardens Children's Project, University of Kansas
  • Jibrielle PoliteDiversity and Inclusivity Outreach Manager, SPARK
  • Craig WesleySenior Manager, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Simons Foundation
Date & Time

About Simons Foundation Presents
Simons Foundation Presents is a free events series exploring the connections between science, culture and society. Join our scientists and special guests as they discuss the intersections of their work, followed by an evening of conversation over drinks. It’s an opportunity to hear new perspectives that may challenge your assumptions and stoke your curiosity. Meet interesting people who share a passion for ideas and discovery. Come for the conversation, stay for the connections.

Launched in 2016, Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge (SPARK) is the largest genetic study of autism ever undertaken. However, Black and African American communities are significantly underrepresented in research. As part of Autism Awareness Month, this discussion focuses on the specific challenges facing Black communities accessing and engaging with autism research. Join members of the SPARK initiative as they discuss navigating care, advancing research and promoting inclusiveness in autism research.

About the Speakers:
Brian Boyd is a professor and director of the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project at the University of Kansas. As director of a community-based, applied research center focused on child development, he has been heavily engaged in research that involves the most vulnerable and often marginalized populations. A special educator by training, much of his research has involved developing and evaluating evidence-based practices within school-based contexts. His more recent work has focused on how issues of implicit bias and race affect the outcomes of children with and without autism.

Jibrielle Polite has served as the diversity and inclusivity outreach manager on the SPARK research team since February 2021. Polite develops, implements and evaluates the study-wide strategy for the outreach and engagement of traditionally underrepresented, marginalized and emerging majority communities in SPARK. She also develops relationships with national and regional organizations to build bridges to underrepresented U.S. racial, ethnic and geographical groups. Before joining the foundation, she worked in various civic and community engagement roles. She recently led a nonprofit women’s organization that developed capacities for social, economic and political change for women and their families in underserved communities.

Craig Wesley joined the foundation in March 2021. He is responsible for developing the foundation’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) roadmap and partnering across the foundation to implement an action plan. Before joining the foundation, Wesley worked in various DEI roles within the nonprofit and corporate sectors. He recently served as director of strategic engagement at National Urban Fellows, a leadership accelerator and talent pipeline for diverse mid-career professionals committed to equity, public service, and social impact. Wesley has over a decade of DEI experience.

To attend this in-person event, you will need to register in advance and provide:

  • Acceptable proof of vaccination
  • Photo ID
  • Eventbrite ticket confirmation email with QR code
  • Simons Foundation Health Screening Questionnaire approval email

Guests are expected to complete these requirements each time they visit the Simons Foundation and entrance will not be granted without this documentation.
On-site registration will not be permitted. Walk-in entry will be denied.


5:30 p.m. Doors open
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. In Conversation
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Reception


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