Thursday, June 17, 2021

#AutisticWhileBlack: Against The Erasure of Ron'Niveya O'Neal


Ron'Niveya O'Neal, a beautiful
Nonspeaking Autistic Girl wearing
a filter crown of flowers that 
match her pattern pink and white 

On April 7, 2018, the body of 9-year-old Ron'Niveya O'Neal was laid to rest in Tampa, Florida. Ron'Niveya was a beautiful, nonspeaking autistic African American little girl who was brutally murdered by her own father, Ronnie O'Neal III. 

I have been following the case. The press had a feeding frenzy with O'Neal III defending himself, shrieking at the jury, and being allowed to cross-examine his now 11-year-old son Ronnie O'Neal IV. Young Ronnie is the only surviving member of that night of familicidal violence. 

Neither the press nor the autism community gave a damn about Ron'Niveya. The media rarely mentions her by name. She is called Ronnie IV's disabled sister, or Kenyatta 'Keke' Barron's daughter. She is the evidence of a double murder. But that is all. Her humanity has been stripped from her.

I have seen no cries for justice for Ron'Niveya. Was she mentioned in the day of mourning rolls? I honestly don't know. But what I do know is that Ron'Niveya mattered so little to all stakeholders in the autism conversation that no one mentioned her. No one cared. And that, after the entire world view of Black suffering shifted in that wake of witnessing the murder of George Floyd and learning about the shooting death of Breonna Taylor is inexcusable.

 I am posting Ron'Niveya's obituary below. Read it. Remember her not because she is a symbol of violence against nonspeaking disabled youth but because she should matter as much as Alex Spourdalakis mattered. She should matter more than those in our community who sat silently while John Elder Robison happily provided autism as an excuse for Dylann Roof, someone who premeditated and murdered innocent African American parishioners at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in the hopes of beginning a race war. 

The erasure of Ron'Niveya and so many other nonspeaking autistic children and adults of color like my son made me so angry that years ago I began writing about them. Trying to keep them visible. But now I am much angrier. Because this did nothing to stop the horror of what a high profile autistic white cis male like Robison did while everyone else except Lydia X. Z. Brown and Sam Crane was silent. 

Everything about how Autistic Black people, especially nonspeakers, are treated in this community needs to change. To those who put themselves at risk to demand change happen, to the true allies against ableist racism in our community, thank you for your tireless efforts. You all have my deepest respect. 

Obituary (via Integrity Funeral Services) :

Miss Ron’niveya O’Neil

Ron'Niveya O'Neal, a
beautiful brown-skinned girl 
wearing her natural hair into 
two high puffs, and huge tulle
 pale pink bow and a pink T-shirt
with a big white heart at its
center with the words 'boy, bye'
written in the middle of the heart. 

A Celebration of Life for Miss Ron’niveya O’Neil will be held on Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. at Greater New Salem PB Church located at 1605 N. Nebraska Avenue, Tampa, 33602 with Elder Dr. Benjamin Curry, Pastor officiating. Interment will follow at Rest Haven Memorial Park.

Ron’niveya O’Neil was born July 29, 2008 in Hillsborough County to Kenyatta Barron and Ronnie O’Neil. Ron’niveya attended school in Hillsborough County. She attended Foster Elementary and continued on to Corr Elementary. She loved getting up and seeing her Mommy and brother. She loved dressing in pretty clothes and wearing earrings. She loved eating Oreos. She loved seeing her bus driver Terry Wallace and her teachers and Corr Elementary. Ron’niveya is preceded in death by her mother Kenyatta Barron. She leaves her cherished memories to her loving brother Little Ronnie, grandparents Booker Ray and C. Barron. Alonzo McNair and Lisa Smith. Her aunts and uncles Jonathan Barron, Alisha Barron, Javario Barron, Daisatta Baldwin, Sasha Eliza, and Tabario Cobbs. Her great grandparents Samuel and Pamela Barron, and Alvin McNair Sr. 

Her great aunts and uncles Latonya Barron, Teresa Barron, Claire Barron, Inez Foxworth, Sabrina Foxworth, Aretha Foxworth, Josephine Holmes, Carolyn McNeal, Jacqueline Monge, Tony Barron, Simmley Barron, Jimmy Foxworth, Eddie Holmes, Rodney Baldwin. Her cousins, Carrieonna Baldwin, Roslyn Baldwin, Rodneya Baldwin, Destiny Baldwin, Rodney Baldwin Jr., Herashiona Crum, Deontae Barron, Tony Barron Jr. , Randy Barron, Tyler Barron, Olivia Barron, Cynthia Green, Chianita Austin, Tavaris, Cammi, Marcus Nesbitt, Lisa and Elaine McCormick, Joyce Ray, Romaine Wint, and a host of other relatives and friends. A special thanks to the men and women of the Hillsborough County Fire Department, the Hillsborough County Sherriff's Department, and to the various staff at Tampa General Hospital.

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