Actress Andrea-Rachel advocates for the Autism Community as she host Family Day in Brooklyn
In support of Autism Awareness Month actress Andrea-Rachel partnered up with United Black Businesses to host Family Day at The Exclusive Cornerstone Café where the community came out to promote acceptance and ignite change. Families and friends of the neighborhood celebrated by participating in an afternoon full of arts-and-crafts, painting, bead making, read-a-longs, sing-a-longs, relay races, and raffles. Throughout the afternoon guest played in a series of trivia games to win gifts from some of the sponsors such as Teadipity, Empowerment Apparel 531, Brooklyn Tea, Trees of the Sea, and a fitness package from Coach Capers Fitness. In the cafe guest took pictures in front of a beautiful mural that was created by phenomenal artist Lilly Beth Angeles. Many people know Andrea from her television roles in Power, The Deuce, and Wu-Tang: An American Saga but one of the most important roles she has is fostering a safe environment where those in the autism community can use their voice to tell their own journeys in our society. She created "DoYouTF?!" as a way for people in our culture to continue to have these necessary conversations of acceptance to those who identify as being disabled. As we take a moment to honor those who are different let us remember that when it comes down to it, we are all the same.
How did you become an advocate for the autism community?
My brother was autistic. I have a relationship with the disability community directly because of my brother but I also have cousins who live out in Boston that are deaf. I have a next-door neighbor who resides as a little person. I have a childhood friend who has a best friend who is also a little person. Since I was young I was always connected in some ways to the disability space and community. For me, I never really saw it as a disability. When I would see someone who was smaller it would just be like oh this person is smaller and that would be it. So for me, there wasn’t a difference. These are people I would cuss with, talk about boys with, and have certain relationships with. As soon as I got older and my younger brother got older I got into protection mode and I saw how the world regarded him. That made me realize that there is more to it and there is a whole world behind it.
Fast forward he passed away in 2014. Fast forward I was acting and I started to do well and get my feet wet and because of that and during the pandemic I focused on not just the autism community but on everyone who is on the spectrum, chronically ill, deformed, or disfigured, or who has a stand out difference about them that could have made them ostracized or isolated from the world. Once I took that into account it was like I am an actress and I still want to do something that is creative and something for my followers. I want to stay in the arts and this was my way of connecting all of that. I was like let us find a hub – a centralized place where people have differences and do know what that feels like. They can stay in the arts and find each other and utilize each other and their skill set.
That’s how we got to the point of thinking about it in a bartering way. I may be an actress and I’m good at hair and painting. You may be a host but you’re really good at cooking. So I might need to cook something for my event. So that this way I can have a fantastic time but you might need me to hook you up with some type of paint for one of your projects. We generally do that already with the people that we know and that are close within our lives but it will be really great if it was a centralized hub for people who have an extra difficult time. My brother was really into, especially the last four years of his life, voiceovers and because of that, I wanted to do something more.
Tell me more about "DoYouTF?!" and how the name was created?
So "TF?!" stands for “Trade For” but it was also a play on words and I thought of that immediately. So originally it was a different concept. It was something just to cater to the guys that were following me. It was going to be A-List only doing business as "TF?!" and that was going to be where we showcase products that were specified for males that were really good and made you feel like you were getting a luxury service. Then, it went into what if we can have a network where they kind of barter and share amongst themselves to help them fuel one another. As it transformed into something different I wanted to keep in mind that this was inspired by my brother and doing something in recognition of just that. I realized that I needed something that stood out. I cuss, I cuss a lot and it’s weird because I go into these phases where I’ll go into months without cussing. I feel like that’s disgusting and then there could be another month where I’m like bleep, bleep, bleep. So with the "TF?!", it was a good way to capture someone’s attention – "DoYouTF?!" – and when people go "TF?!" it’s supposed to be a positive thing I say o no “Trade For”. It’s also a way so when people see it everyone that has it on and everyone that has it in their bio, that someone is committed to the idea of bartering and trading. Tick for Tat in a positive way where I help you and you help me. I scratch your back, you scratch my back.
What are your hopes for your event and for future events surrounding autism awareness?
Today is really about the community. I wanted to do this because I wanted it to be in a space where I am being honest, open, and transparent and because of that I wanted to do something for them. I figured we have all been relatively locked up in a pandemic and people haven’t been able to get out and about. The weather was going to be nice around this time and it’s autism awareness month and I feel like this company is a reflection of my brother and he was autistic it would be smart to get something up and running during this month. I want to get to a point where I am trusted in that community where they know I have good intentions. I really don’t see these types of events open in this area that could just be a me thing because I really don’t go outside. I wanted to create a circle where everyone can come together and network and create together.
What are your views on fans vs. supporters?
I feel like it’s so much conceit that comes with that and like when you think of a fan you think of wind blowing and blowing gas like they are hyping you up in a way and it’s cool right. No pun-intended but at the same time, I feel like it’s give and take. It’s not really just blowing wind and hyping up, it’s a journey that you start to take with people together and they get to be with you and see you on your highs and lows. I want people to understand that I’m very appreciative of every time they come out and support and everything that they say that’s positive or encouraging. I also want people to realize that they don’t have to do that. I’m willing to do the same thing in return as far as support. I want to have a certain relationship with people where they feel like we are connected, we are close, and we are cool. Some things might slip my mind but it’s not a reflection of my heart and my feelings.
How do you balance out your work and personal life?
I am selfish when it comes to that in the sense where I am very aware of when I just need to relax or need to go to sleep, or I need to drink water, or I just need to stay by myself. The more I become aware and have acceptance of those needs the easier it is for me to teach other people how to be aware in accepting those parts for themselves. Especially when you are pursuing something like acting. There is a constant need of being seen, felt, or being understood. I had to release myself of that and just kind of go with the flow. You have to be honest with yourself. For me it’s not really about balance, it’s about listening and the more you listen to yourself the easier that balance is and becomes. Sometimes your balance may seem off-balance to someone else because they might do it differently. It’s about not allowing yourself to get inflicted by what it looks like and mean to other people. It’s about being centered on what it feels and looks like for you.
Thank you Andrea for your time and your honesty. I appreciate how open you are with telling your story and the journey you have with the autism community. It has truly been a pleasure to be here today and work for a greater cause.
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Until next post… Coach Tay