My Experience As An Intern With Sins Invalid
By Lateef McLeod
For three years I had the immense privilege to have an internship with the great organization Sins Invalid. Sins Invalid is a performance project collective led by artists of color with disabilities that produce work dealing with disability and sexuality. Sins Invalid’s two main leaders and co-founders, Patty Berne and Leroy Moore have worked diligently to make sure their organization have international acclaim. The organization is famous for their annual theater show where artists with disabilities put on skits about sexuality. Before I was an intern I was a performer in their annual show in 2007 performing two of the performance pieces that I wrote and I was in their Artist-In-Residence program in from 2010 to 2011 that led to another performance. Throughout my years working with Sins Invalid I was impressed to the organization’s dedication to disability rights and a new practice entitled disability justice.
Disability justice is a core theme that Sins Invalid promotes in all of their performances, workshops, community discussions, and other services they provide in for the public. Essentially the philosophy promoted the idea that all people had bodies that should be accepted as whole and equal in our society whether their bodies are differently abled physically, cognitively, or psychologically. The philosophy also promotes the reality that all people have to contend with multiple identities such as race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, nationality, as well as people’s differing disabilities and we need to feel free and encouraged to live exhibiting our whole identities in society. My introduction to disability justice and my relationship to my colleagues at the organization, Sins Invalid was the most influential internship that I had in my life.
What I valued most about my internship is the political education that I received being a part of the organization. Both Patty Berne and Leroy Moore have extensive knowledge in disability history, rights, and culture that I tried to gleam from over the years. We have had many political discussions on various topics intersecting with disabilities that assisted in my framing on how I position myself politically as an artist and person with a disability. We have an annual event entitled Making Connections where we invite members of the community to participate in a discussion on topics that intersects with disability like for example how capitalism affects our disability or how we can engage in spirituality through a disability gaze. I was fortunate enough to organize and lead two of these events, which were great successes. I also participated in internal political discussions with just Sins Invalid staff that widen my grasp on certain issues.
Being involved with Sins Invalid has made me see what is possible as a writer and artist with a disability. Patty and Leroy have exemplified about what it means to be professional artists with disabilities who have steadily built up an audience fan base that spans internationally. They have both developed a platform where they are seen as leaders in their field and are invited to many conferences and workshops as expert public speakers. This is exactly the position that I am working to be in. I feel fortunate in being their understudy and soaking up all the knowledge they have to offer. I really admire their level of professionalism and want to emulate that in my own career.
At Sins Invalid I also observed first hand how to have political integrity in my career. I witnessed how at Sins Invalid our political footprint has been strategically used to support some good causes. Here is a previous Disability Visibility Project blog post about Sins Invalid that you can view at this link: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2014/09/07/sins-invalid-statement-on-police-violence/, it states how the organization joined a protest against Urban Shield, which is a program that gives military grade weapons and equipment to police forces all over the United States. This over militarization of our police force has a direct correlation to the increase police shootings and murder of black and brown people exemplified by the recent murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. I was honored to stand with Sins Invalid in the Urban Shield protest and I feel honored to belong to an organization that shares my political convictions.
So as I approach the end of my Sins Invalid internship it is bittersweet because of how influential it was. I will definitely miss working with the talented and dedicated artists on producing and promoting art and culture on a weekly basis. However, I will be in the Sins Invalid’s major theater production next year so be on the look out for that. Sins Invalid cannot get rid of me that easily.