Aqueila Lewis interviewed Lateef McLeod for the Disability Visibility Project™ at StoryCorps San Francisco on March 5th, 2015. In this clip, Lateef talks about being a writer, and how he uses writing to create new narratives about living with a disability.
[Music 01 starts: drumming on a drum kit]
Lateef McLeod: Before we begin I want to say thank you for doing this with me. I wanted to do the interview with you, because you are the one that I talk to the most everyday or every other day. You have been my partner in a lot of things this year and a half. Hopefully this will be one of those good adventures.
Aqueila Lewis: We’ve been friends for more than a year and a half, but anyway! [laughter]
So, let’s start this.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a writer, and what topics excite you?
[Music 01 ends]
Lateef McLeod: I realized that I wanted to be a writer in the second grade where I realized I could create whole new worlds while writing words on the page. I really enjoy crafting stories and poems to express myself and how I see the world. I do enjoy writing about politics, current affairs, and personal issues. I have an unique perspective, because of my disability that I want to share with the world.
There are many stigmas and myths about people with disabilities, like we are incapable of doing anything, we have low cognitive skills, we aren’t sexual and so forth. So when I advocate for my disability community I have the responsibility to produce a more accurate picture of what living with a disability is like.
How old were you when you decided that you wanted to be a writer and spoken word artist?
Aqueila Lewis: You know, I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I remember maybe 4 or 5-years-old just really wanting to write. I wanted to be an author. I wanted to do a lot of things. I didn’t become a spoken word artist until 2010, just really struggling a lot with life and trying to figure out how to deal with it, and so writing was my way of escape, and so I just started writing whatever I felt. Some of the topics that I write about deal with sexual violence, violence against women… I write about community issues, home foreclosures, gun violence with the police and the community, and spoken word was another push. I kind of felt like I was shy, and I wanted to break free. And I went to one of the open mics, and my birthday was in that month. So, October — Octber 20th is my anniversary of being a spoken word artist.
Lateef McLeod: Two… two… days… before… your… birthday.
[Music 02 starts: clapping and tuba, piano, percussion, big band swing and jazz]
Yes. Two days before your birthday. Yes. Yes. I remember.
Aqueila Lewis: Whatever. [laughter] Yeah, it is two days before my birthday. You’re trying to show me out. Like I said I had a lot of things on my mind, so I just could remember your birthday, but it’s okay. [laughter]
[Music 02 ends]
So you are a performer. We both share that in common. You do spoken word. Have you ever performed outside of California, or the U.S.?
Lateef McLeod: Yes, I performed in New York City with June Jordan’s “Poetry for the People” back when we visited there as a group in 2003. That was the first time I performed outside California. I also did a lecture when I went to the ISAAC 2008 conference in Montreal. I may have performed poetry there. I can’t remember.
I hope to write many novels, and poetry books. I also want to reach the highest stage for my spoken word artistry, and my motivational speaking.
It is an exhilarating experience to have your audience hanging on every word of your poem, and really getting the message of what you are saying. Especially since there is a tendency in this society to just ignore the experiences of people with disabilities. Especially in the media.
I like writing erotic poetry too because it is a good vehicle to express my sexuality. When most of society is trying to ignore it because of my disability.
For me it gives me the opportunity to create the alternative narrative of how I see the world and the world I want to build through my writing.
What do you want people to remember you by?
Aqueila Lewis: I want people to remember that I am someone who really wanted to go back into the past and heal. I’m all about breaking generational cycles and curses that affect future generations.
What do you want people to remember you by?
Lateef McLeod: I… want… people… to… remember… that… I… tried… to… be… a… good…. man… who… wanted… to… do… right… by… God… and… everyone. I want people to remember that I tried to be a good man who wanted to do right by God and everyone.
[Music 03 starts: drumming on a drum kit]
[Music 03 fades out]
Music 01: Deadly Combo – Vacate the Premises (Gett The Phukout Insrumental) (Vacate the Premises (Gett The Phukout Instrumental) by Deadly Combo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License)
Music 03: Deadly Combo – Vacate the Premises (Gett The Phukout Insrumental) (Vacate the Premises (Gett The Phukout Instrumental) by Deadly Combo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License)
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Disability Visibility Project™. (2015, March 5th). DVP Interview: Lateef McLeod and Aqueila Lewis. Retrieved from: http://wp.me/p4H7t1-Nad
A photo featuring Lateef McLeod and Aqueila Lewis, taken on March 5th, 2015. Lateef McLeod is on the left, wearing a zip-up blue fleece, a black tee-shirt, and a red StoryCorps pin. Lateef appears to be African American, and he is smiling. Aqueila Lewis is on the right, wearing a black sweater, a long earring, and her hair is braided and pulled back. She appears to be African American, her face is tilted to the left, and she is smiling.
Produced for the Disability Visibility Project™ by Geraldine Ah-Sue and Alice Wong with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the story of our lives. For more: www.storycorps.org and www.disabilityvisibilityproject.com