Finding a Voice

As a published poet, artist and writer, Lester Mayers ’19 (Theatre Arts) tackles issues often ignored by the public, inviting readers to join him in exploring the healing power of the written word.

It is so important that all artists remain obedient to their craft and surrender to it whenever it calls. Because one day, someone somewhere will need that message to hang onto – or the artist themselves might need it when they no longer believe in art. Stop waiting and create. Trust the Truth."
-Lester Mayers ’19 (Theatre Arts)

Mayers believes that writing can ease our emotional responses to negative experiences and he has dedicated himself to helping others explore how writing through trauma brings peace and self-compassion. His works possess a unique rhythm that is tantamount to the human experience.

“I hope that my writing helps people along the road to their individual, necessary healing,” said Mayers. “I want them to love themselves just a little bit more than the day before while holding themselves accountable for doing so.”

A preserver of Black vernacular, Mayers’ messages are raw and honest, textured and important. His first book, “100 Poems for 100 Voices,” was published in 2019 and is an insightful contribution of untold stories from the gay Black experience that transcend time, place and identity.

His approach gives him space and freedom to explore subjects ranging from slavery, Africa and American history, to LGBTQ+, love, relationships and trauma.

When I first began this writing journey, I did not feel worthy of it; I felt that there was no way this could be done by me, and done right. But then I realized our stories deserve to be told, and the universe deserves to acknowledge our existence. Then, I realized that it no longer was about being done right, but about being truthful.”
Lester Mayers ’19 (Theater Arts)

"100 Poems for 100 Voices” resulted in a sold-out poetry tour and a spoken-word album available on iTunes, Spotify, and Tidal. It has earned four awards, including the Visionary Award from the National Advancement of Colored Women Organization Club and two New York State proclamations.  

In addition to his rising career as a writer and artist, Mayers has remained an engaged New Paltz alumnus, showing special dedication in supporting our community’s continued dialogues about race, diversity and mental health.

Last spring, when COVID-19 moved events online, the alumnus hosted a virtual workshop titled “Writing Through Trauma,” for which he earned the 2020 Alumni Service Award. He is also a recipient of the 2017 SUNY Chancellors Award for Artistic Excellence and the Robert Sillins Family Foundation Scholarship, which he used to aid in travel and research while writing his first book of poetry.

Most recently, Mayers published a new book titled “A Spring of Gay-Black-Feminine Joy: A Critical Moment,” and in early 2021, he returned to campus for a virtual reading and Q&A with the campus community. The event was co-hosted by the Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion and Black Lives Matter at School.

“This book is a critical analysis of what it is to be me right now, to be alive,” he said. “It’s an encouragement for gay, Black, feminine men to divest from what the world has told us about what we are supposed to be. It encourages us instead to invest in what we know to be true based on our own experiences."

Lester Mayers ’19 (Theatre Arts), a Brooklyn native, is an MFA graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, a school of Naropa University, located in Boulder, Colorado. He was recently named the inaugural Artist In Residence/Lecture at Finger Lakes Community College for spring 2023. He has been published by the Huffington Post, Arsenal Pulp Press, Lambda Literary, Chronogram, Colorado’s Boulder Weekly, and I Am from the Driftwood LGBTQ archive. Mayers has recently finished a visual archive called "Love Lessons with Lester." Learn more about Lester Mayers online.