Leslé Honoré is a mother, the executive director of The K.L.E.O. Center nonprofit, and a renowned poet from Chicago. The third achievement recently garnered Honoré national attention as she wrote a piece shedding light on a national conversation about race and toxic masculinity.
Honore just released a poem that was shared 71K times on Facebook. It speaks about the mistreatment of women, particularly Black women. This treatment was put on display for the world to see through Serena Williams’ experience at the most recent U.S. Open.
Here, we discuss her poem, the Black woman’s position in society, and what Williams means to the world.
You have written numerous pieces that speak to Black women. Why do you think this one about Williams resonated with so many people?
A couple of reasons. I was actually surprised that this piece went viral. We are at 103 thousand likes [71K] shares. Typically, my pieces that get the most attention are the ones that have a more universal tone. Like the one I wrote about Doria Ragland, Meghan Merkle’s mom. It was about single mothers; even though Doria is Black and there was a lot about Black Girl Magic, it is still something that women of different backgrounds can relate to.
People who have seen Serena play since she was a little girl and seen her grow up have witnessed her empowerment. We have seen her fight and go through these transitions of life, getting married, having a child. She has been trying her best to balance what women are expected to balance. … She’s also been very open about the challenges she’s experienced and I think that really resonates with other women.
Talk about the frame of mind you were in when you started writing this poem.
I was actually getting ready to go have drinks and dinner with a couple of my girlfriends who have been going through hard periods in their life. We were being really intentional about setting some time aside and spending it with each other. I saw some comments (about Serena) and looked up the story just trying to see what I missed. It was pretty immediate after I saw the exchange with Serena and the umpire. It was enraging, hurtful and frustrating.
I grew up watching John McEnroe berate umpires and go on 10-minute tangents and for Serena to be penalized for what she had done was insanity and it was purposeful and the man that did it has done it before.
What do you feel is the Black woman’s position in society?
I don’t think I am the expert and the voice of Black women everywhere. I’m biracial. I’m Black and Brown. I’m Black and Mexican and proud of both of my heritages. I think it puts me in a very unique position where I’m able to see through different lenses what oppression looks like, how it’s different and how it’s similar. I also know I walk in light privilege. I’m allowed into spaces. I am accepted, even tolerated more than a woman who presents more aesthetically Black than I do. I am accepted in spaces where when we have darker skin or coarser hair are not welcome. I’m conscious of that and I try to always make sure that I’m walking in being conscious of that and that I’m using it in ways that promote dialogue and that I am being a good representative and a good steward of that. I’m always doing my best to make room for other women, particularly other women of color.
What were your feelings when you saw the caricature that Mark Knight drew of Serena following the U.S. Open?
That’s why I wrote that poem. It was a moment of horrific clarity. I can’t even express or explain how something so ugly made me feel that I was on the right track.
That cartoon is exactly how the world sees us and depicts us. This ugliness is what she has to fight every single day and still find a way to be victorious and to turn around and uplift other women. Her speech afterward wasn’t about her. It was about ensuring that another woman did not have to go through this same space. It was not about winning or losing; it was the fact that she had to go through this to be received fairly.
Read Leslé Honoré’s poem below:
The world owes you an apology
Not just the umpire
Not just the French Open
Not just racists who ask if you feel intimidated by Sharapova’s basic looks
Or being drug tested more than
The basic looking actual drug user
The nurses and doctors who ignored
Of your own body
Almost causing your death
Every time they questioned your
They did so because of your skin
Asian parents who mold their children are
White parents who risk everything
Turn sex tapes into millions
But your father who made legends out of
Shaping you and your sister
Like Michelangelo chiseled David
He is loud
The world owes you an apology
But we know it will never come
Because first they would have to acknowledge
It isn’t your black panther suit
You venting to a umpire
A broken racket
Or a demand of proper medical care
It’s your blackness that offends
Your power when you should be powerless
When you should always grovel
Always remind yourself
That you should thank them
for allowing you
To be on the courts at all
As if a Queen tells the jester
thank you for her
You are the living breathing embodiment of
The dream of our ancestors
The power of our foremothers
The strength that the
Could not break
You are more than the
You are goddess
More than tennis
You are a living black legend
And they hate you for it
#Serena #GOAT #USOpenTennis #JustDoIt