On Tuesday, Feb. 18, SUNY New Paltz Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion along with Black Lives Matter at Schools, presented “Lester Mayers: A Spring of Gay-Black-Feminine Joy.” The SUNY New Paltz office of alumni resources, Sojourner Truth Library and theatre department were also involved in the virtual event.
“Lester Mayers was incredibly successful during his time here at SUNY New Paltz,” said Emma Morcone, LGBTQIA+ coordinator for SUNY New Paltz, as she introduced the event.
The evening began with information about the many accomplishments that Mayers (‘19) has accumulated during and since his time at SUNY New Paltz.
“Lester has been published by the Huffington Post, Arsenal Pulp Press, Lambda Literary, Chronogram, Sojourner Truth Library, Colorado’s Boulder Weekly and ‘I Am’ from Driftwood LGBTQ Archive,” Morcone said.
“When Lester reached out to me a few months back about doing an event with SUNY New Paltz my first gut reaction was yes, yes, yes,” Morcone said.
“I didn’t even ask for details. I just said yep, sounds great. I knew whatever Lester was looking to do. I knew that our students and our faculty and staff would be so incredibly lucky to hear and be a part of anything that Lester was going to be sharing with us.”
According to his website, Mayers’ first book, “100 Poems for 100 voices,” garnered much adoration and several awards such as the Visionary Award from the National Advancement of Color Women Organization and two New York State proclamations. The book resulted in both a sold out poetry tour and a poetry album that can be found on Spotify, iTunes and Tidal.
The hour-long Zoom gathering centered on a reading by Mayers from his new book “A Spring of Gay-Black-Feminine Joy: A Critical Moment.” The excerpt reading was followed by a Q&A where students, alumni and faculty were able to ask Mayers about the writing process, the book’s content and questions pertaining to Mayers’ life experience.
“Really what [the book] is, is a critical analysis of what it is to be me right now, to be alive,” Mayers said before the reading. “It’s an encouragement for gay, Black, feminine men to divest from what the world has told them . . . us, from what we are supposed to be and invest with what we know to be true from our own experiences.”
“Gay black feminine men are not another type of men,” he read from the Chapter 2 excerpt. “We are men. If this abandonment of gay black feminine men continues on the account of a historic malady the prospects of our safety will be even more fractured than our personalities.”
As the reading progressed, it became evident that the book is more than just biographical; though it is crafted from the heart of the author’s experience. As Mayers made clear, the book is a true critical analysis, rather than a collection of poetry. From the chapter two excerpt, attendees were able to gather the community empowerment and call to action quality of “A Spring of Gay-Black-Feminine Joy.”
“We are not invisible. We are not scared of winter because we’ve got no place to go. We are a spring of gay-Black-feminine joy, out to define ourselves from the center of ourselves with gratitude, trust, joy and tenderness,” Mayers read at the close of the reading portion of the event.
During the question and answer portion of the evening, audience members’ inquiries spanned from publishing, to questions about Mayers’ experience before, during and after his time at New Paltz to simply congratulations on his profound work.
The main takeaway from the Q&A was the powerful force that Mayers is in all areas of life. Part of that power being the strength of vulnerability that Mayers calls on and channels through his work. From self publishing to challenging institutions, he is driven and unstoppable. His work and his presence are the beautiful intersection of this drive and the ability to feel so deeply.
Mayers, who sat in front of a Toni Morrison quilt to honor the late writer’s birthday, ended with a quote which he stated “keeps me going, keeps me fighting for language.”
“We die. That might be the meaning of life. But we do language. That might be the measure of our lives,” Mayers said, quoting Morrison.
“A Spring of Gay-Black-Feminine Joy” can be purchased on Amazon or at www.lestermayers.com.