Lesléa Newman

About the Program
In her presentation, “He Continues to Make a Difference: The Story of Matthew Shepard,” Lesléa Newman uses poetry, photography, and creative visualization to show how each one of us can—and must—make a difference to make the world a safer place for all.

Lesléa Newman was the keynote speaker for Gay Awareness Week at the University of Wyoming the year Matt was killed, and arrived on campus on October 12, 1998, the day that he died. She made a promise to his friends and teachers that she would do all she could to keep Matt’s name and legacy alive. To that end, she wrote October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, a book-length poetry cycle that explores the impact of Matt’s murder by speaking in the fictitious voices of the silent witnesses to the crime: the fence he was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company all through the night.

After speaking about her connection to Matthew Shepard, and reading an excerpt from her book with accompanying photographs, Lesléa Newman leads the audience in a guided visualization that helps each participant come up with a concrete task they commit to, such as writing a letter about LGBT rights to their school newspaper, joining the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, or challenging their peers to stop using offensive homophobic language. A powerful speaker, Lesléa Newman continues to make a difference, and help others do so as well.

About Lesléa Newman
Lesléa Newman is the author of 64 books including A Letter to Harvey MilkNobody’s Mother, Hachiko WaitsWrite from the HeartThe Boy Who Cried FabulousThe Best Cat in the World, and Heather Has Two Mommies. As the keynote speaker for Gay Awareness Week at the University of Wyoming in 1998, Lesléa Newman arrived on campus shortly after Matt was attacked, and saw firsthand the profound effect hate can have on a person, a community, a state, and a nation. She has received many literary awards including Poetry Fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Highlights for Children Fiction Writing Award, the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, and three Pushcart Prize Nominations. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award finalists. She is a faculty member of Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program.

Endorsements

“I am not sure I can adequately express the impact Lesléa Newman’s presentations had on our entire student body at Northhampton High School. Both Students and faculty were powerfully affected by your poems, your story and your call to make a difference in the world.”
— Jon Sass, Teacher & GSA Advisor, Northhampton High School, Northhampton, MA

“As a teacher of high school students, I am struck by both their potential to be silent in the face of injustice and also the be the most powerful change agents. Often, it takes a radical experience to turn quiet observers into actors. Leslea’s talk focusing on the beautiful life and tragic death of Matthew Shepard, was an example of such a moment.”
— Sara Barber-Just, Teacher, Amherst Regional High School, Amherst, MA

Booking Information

To inquire about availability and pricing of “He Continues to Make a Difference: The Story of Matthew Shepard,” contact the Programs Department of the Matthew Shepard Foundation at:

Booking@MatthewShepard.org or by calling 303.830.7400 ext. 15

The Fence

I held him all night long
He was heavy as a broken heart
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing

He was heavy as a broken heart
His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

We were out on the prairie alone
Their truck was the last thing he saw
I saw what was done to this child
I cradled him just like a mother

Their truck was the last thing he saw
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
I cradled him just like a mother
I held him all night long

© Lesléa Newman

Download the Teachers Guide for October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard and check out the trailer for the book below.

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