Last month, Lateef McLeod, Alliance Board member, performed in the show “We Love Like Barnacles: Crip Lives in Climate Chaos” by disability justice group Sins Invalid to a virtual audience of over 800 people. The show focused on the intersection between climate justice and disability justice, and the word “crip” in the performance title was used as an inclusive, re-claimed term for disabled people. Lateef’s piece in the show, titled “Running from the Ecological Wave,” explored the theme of communication that has been so central to his work as a self-advocate, writer, and poet.

LATEEF MCLEOD AND LISA THOMAS ADEYEMO, ©RICHARD DOWNING 2007 Image Description: Beneath an enormous, bright and shadowy full moon, before a large free-standing mirror with a wooden frame, a Black man lies back in the arms of a Black woman. He wears black underwear, his pants around his knees, sitting on a sheep skin, his arm folded in front of him. She cradles him, her head resting on his shoulder

Lateef Mcleod and Lisa Thomas Adeyemo from Sins Invalid’s 2007 show. ©Richard Downing

As Lateef shared with me, one of the biggest challenges about self-directing his own services has been learning to be assertive when he needs to be. It’s taken him years of practice, and trial-and-error, to figure out how to communicate about his accessibility needs—which includes using his  Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device and his wheelchair. Living in an ableist world already makes navigating day-to-day life difficult. But his performance piece went one step further, challenging viewers to imagine what it would be like to navigate and survive a climate disaster.

Lateef begins his piece in his wheelchair on stage and describes his anger at man-made harm to the environment including pollution and global warming. Not only are toxic air and water hurting everyone, climate change now threatens us with wildfires and floods. He asks the audience to imagine what it would be like to be evacuated from his home, and how having to evacuate in a crisis could rob him both of his voice and ability to move:

who will come and get me.

in my wheelchair.

when my building starts burning?


Will the firefighters listen to me

that I need my AAC device.

when they are rescuing me from the flames?

During this part of the performance, Lateef is removed from his wheelchair by another person as the background of the stage turns a bright burning red, evoking the wildfires consuming the West Coast. Lateef’s face is distraught, and his pleas become desperate that people listen to him now, because he may lose his ability to communicate when climate disaster strikes:

Will my electronic voice be saved 

or will it disintegrate in the ash?

Lateef McLeod, a Black disabled man with cerebral palsy is held up by another Black man, Sean Shelly, standing behind him. A bright red screen behind them reads “Will my home. city. state. be safe. when the sea waters roll over the green Californian hills? Is there a safe place to take refuge. When the ecological waves start rushing in?” Photo by Richard Downing.

Lateef Mcleod (with Sean Shelly) from Sins Invalid’s 2020 show “We Love Like Barnacles: Crip Lives in Climate Chaos.” ©Richard Downing

Lateef then moves from this very personal experience of marginalization to explore systems of oppression in our society. Lateef is an advocate for disability justice. He is a leader in ensuring the disability movement, including the Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports, centers marginalized voices like his own. In his performance with Sins Invalid, he explores this theme as well.

 He describes how civilization is structured in a way such that both the Earth and our bodies are treated as resources from which to extract labor and capital, while polluting us with toxins at the same time. Using language that echoes that of the enslavement and exploitation of Black people like him, Lateef makes a powerful call to stop “this system.”

This system,

who estrange us from the land,

like we are estranged from our bodies.

So we don’t flinch in pain,

As they both deteriorate.

Lateef McLeod, a Black man kneels on stage in all white, face in distress, while another Black man, Sean Shelly, with long hair supports his body

Lateef Mcleod (with Sean Shelly) from Sins Invalid’s 2020 show “We Love Like Barnacles: Crip Lives in Climate Chaos.” ©Richard Downing

Yet Lateef then offers the audience a possibility that the future may not be so bleak, but only if we work together. Rather than let our differences like, race, sexuality, gender and ability divide us, he calls for solidarity amongst all marginalized people to fight environmental destruction together:

will we learn to clutch each other

as lifelines,

and save each other.


no matter the condition 

of our body minds?

Lateef’s final words, as the stage goes black, challenge us to fight, asking us “do we have the courage?”

The Alliance and Sins Invalid are two organizations that have the courage to support each other in the fight for disability justice, which includes climate justice, and we’re proud to work alongside them and to have Lateef McLeod on our board. To learn more about Lateef, including accessing his writing, poetry, and podcasts, go to You can also learn more about our board of directors and our work at Finally, if you missed Lateef’s performance and are now excited to see it, Sins Invalid is planning an encore show in Spring 2021—and we’ll be sure to give our members a heads up!


This blog post was written by Kayley Whalen

Kayley Whalen

Kayley Whalen

Communications Consultant

Kayley is a disabled Latinx transgender advocate. She is an independent consultant who has worked with many social justice organizations including the Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports, Greenpeace USA, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Sins Invalid.