Hi! I’m Morénike (if you need that pronounced phonetically, click here and listen to the first audio link from the “user in Michigan” that does NOT sound like the shoe brand). I’m not great at introductions, but I know that it’s necessary for this part of the website. It’s just that introductions seem so contrived and braggy sometimes, you know? Maybe I’m reading too much into this; let me try to just go for it.
So if you want/need/prefer a “traditional” overview that provides a decent summary of me, you’ll want to go here for my bio, as the one I’m about to share is a lot more informal. Hopefully, it will help provide some insight into who I am.
My name means “Cherished One” in my family’s native language. I use both she and they pronouns. I am a disabled non-binary woman of color and the proud daughter of immigrants who came to America from Africa and ended up staying here in the US permanently, where my siblings and I were raised and where I still reside. Growing up, my family was working class (that’s a nice way of saying “kind of poor” now, I think?), but what we lacked in finances we compensated for with creativity and love. I’m a product of public schools and as a kid aspired to become an ambassador (until I realized how poorly-suited my personality would be for such a role). Instead of that, after college I worked in the nonprofit sector as well as in research and public health followed by a stint as a stay at home parent, then going to graduate school, and later entering the classroom. I did a lot of volunteer and advocacy work throughout that journey (and I still do).
I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a teenager, and though I have been likened a bit to an ethnic version of a “crunchy granola” mom because of my natural hair (mine is in locs), co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and self-weaning/extended breastfeeding tendencies, I tend to disagree with that assessment (I actually hate the taste and texture of granola, frankly, plus it’s not my style to proselytize and/or “police” others about their parenting/hair/food/lifestyle choices; you’re totally free to drink a Fanta and eat hot dogs and Cheetos around me without fear of a lecture). I would say I’m just me.
I’m a college professor by day and a mom/writer/activist all the time. In addition to various other roles that I serve in, I’ve served on the board of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) as well as other organizations. I am a Humanities Scholar at Rice University and I currently co-chair two NIH working groups, Women’s HIV Research Collaborative as well as Community Partners.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to engage in quite a bit of public speaking and have discovered that it’s something that I really, really like. I’m an Xennial (super old millennial) who was born in the Midwest, educated on the West Coast, and I live in the South (“dirty South…dirty, dirty, can y’all really feel me…”). Oh yeah, that. I tend to script (a lot) like I was doing just now with that song lyric; I’m Autistic and can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t engage in some form of echolalia, or repetition. (In case you were interested, the script above is a line from the old song “Are You That Somebody” by the late Aaliyah, by the way.)
If you’re into Myers-Briggs, I’m an INFJ, and according to the “Birds of a Different Feather” assessment, I’m an owl. I’m pretty sure I’ve taken some other personality and/or leadership type things too, but none of the results currently come to mind. If we were at Hogwarts, I’d absolutely be in Ravenclaw, but I’d have lots of HufflePuff and Gryffindor friends. Maybe I would befriend a Slytherin or two, but I’d have to watch my back around them…because Slytherin, you know.
I’m happily married to a fellow Blerd (Black nerd) and I’m the proud mom of several amazing children who are elementary through college aged. Some of them I gave birth to; others I didn’t, and our family is multicultural, multinational, serodifferent, and neurodiverse. I live for my family; they are the most important thing to me in the world, and I believe that families come in all sizes, all types, and all colors.
I prefer books to TV, prefer texting/otherwise using mobile devices to small talk, and would choose a flight over a lengthy road trip without hesitation. I’m a jeans, t-shirts, and flip flops kind of girl, but will rock a miniskirt, heels, and makeup if I’m in the mood. (And look good in it too!) I like spicy food (especially Thai and Ethiopian), music, sappy movies, and I love children. (Which is a good thing because I have a houseful of kids.) My favorite snacks are sugar snap peas with hummus and tomato basil flavored Whisps (a baked cheese crips made by the Cello brand). I’m a “Type A” (perfectionist-type) person who wishes she was more “Type B” (relaxed and spontaneous). I’m kinda weird, but most people get used to it. I treasure honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. If you don’t screw me over or stab me in the back, once I’m your friend you have a loyal friend for life as I’m very much a “ride or die” chick.
I’m the type of person who enjoys a scholarly debate yet still likes to watch cartoons (Steven Universe, anyone? That’s my favorite show; I once gave a keynote address about it. I also really like Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super). I’m not afraid of hard work but I also treasure opportunities to rest, laugh, and just be. I believe strongly in the importance of human rights and inclusion, and a lot of that is reflected in my work as well as my faith (I’m a Christian, though a progressive rather than a “conservative evangelical” one).
I am a firm supporter of justice and human rights for all and I believe in the power of community. I enjoy learning new things and I value diversity. I think it’s brave to admit when you’re wrong and even more so to learn from it. I hate extremities of weather (very cold or very hot) and there is probably not a scenario that I will encounter that does not evoke a memory of a related song lyric or a TV/movie phrase. Being barefoot feels good, and being barefoot on the beach feels better. In fact, everything is better at the beach…any beach, because the beach is my happy place.
I’ve been involved in advocacy since working with refugee youth in low-income housing projects and volunteering as an academic mentor to at-risk students in local public schools during my undergraduate years of college. I care about a lot of causes and a lot of people, and though I’m just one person, I sincerely try to use my life, my voice, my resources, my intellect, my connections, my…whatever to help effect positive change in our world. It’s something that’s deeply meaningful to me. So while I can definitely play, be silly, and enjoy life (you gotta have balance – or at least strive to anyway), I do believe that I have a responsibility to put in the work while I’m on this earth to try to make it a better place. I will never stop…I don’t know what else to do but this. It’s who I am, how I was made. Everything about me all points back to this – a desire to make a difference. I want to live my life knowing that I fought hard for justice, for inclusion, and when I’m gone I want to leave a legacy of love and purpose. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that.
Thanks for visiting my website. I’ve got five little mouths to feed, so if you have the interest and the means please consider making contact with me for one or more (preferably paid) speaking engagements, consulting work, editing, guest lecturing, curriculum development, and/or writing projects. (However, if you’re an individual or a grassroots community-based group with limited funds, especially one led by multiply marginalized people, and are worried about paying, still hit me up. Perhaps we can discuss discounts, a “quid pro quo” arrangement, or pro bono – after all, my work is about the message, not the money). Otherwise, please take a look around, and feel free to connect with me here, on social media, or through other means!