On the morning that Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, Lesle Honore sat in bed in front of her TV on Chicago’s South Side, 4,000 miles from the royal spectacle at Windsor Castle, and wrote a poem on her phone.
It was inspired by the sight of Markle and her mother, Doria Ragland, dressed in wedding finery and riding together in a Rolls-Royce.
For the Dorias of the world
Who will sit alone
At graduations and weddings
At baseball games and school plays
At proms and award ceremonies
Who will carry the load
The poem, which she completed in a few minutes, was a tribute to single mothers everywhere.
The Dorias who always leave space
For a father’s redemption
Knowing it may never come
The next morning, after sending the poem to her sister for a spell check, Honore posted it on Facebook.
“And boy,” she said Tuesday, “I wasn’t prepared. I’m always surprised when something resonates with someone other than myself.”
By Tuesday afternoon, on her Facebook page alone, her ode to Doria, the black American single mother of the new Duchess of Sussex, had received 50,000 kudos and been shared 26,000 or so times. I discovered it in a Facebook post by a Chicago friend, who had learned about it from a friend in Ecuador.
Obviously, Honore had struck a nerve. In the deluge of commentaries on the social significance of the marriage of a biracial American to a white English prince, Honore’s quick 300 words expressed something a lot of people were feeling but hadn’t heard in such a pithy way.
Honore is the executive director at KLEO Community Family Life Center, a Chicago nonprofit that focuses on violence and other social justice issues.
A single mother of three who identifies racially as “Blaxican,” she grew up in California with her father, a New Orleans native, and her mother, an immigrant from Mexico. After studying English Literature at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, she moved to Chicago in 1999, where she has made her living at nonprofits that serve young people.
When she can, she writes.
Last summer, with help from a Kickstarter campaign and six months of unemployment, she wrote and published a book of poems called “Fist & Fire: Poems that inspire action and ignite passion.”
“Writing is something I’ve always done,” she said. “It’s always how I’ve communicated with the world, with myself, with my kids. But it’s a part of me that I sometimes have to fight to hold on to. Work and kids can be all-encompassing.”
Honore, a fan of the opulent British dramas “Downton Abbey” and “The Crown,” got up at 4 a.m. on Saturday to watch the royal wedding. Her two daughters crowded into bed with her, and even if the royal pomp was a world away from theirs, they cried.
They cried to see so many people of color in the church, to think of how the world was opening up to people who look like them. Honore cried because she saw in Ragland a representation of single motherhood.
“It’s not always sad and somber,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a celebration of having made it. You stand there by yourself, and you know you’re not completely alone. You stand shoulder to shoulder with other women — and men too. When your kids are successful, you get to revel in that, but when there are missteps, there’s no one to pass the baton to. You are the disciplinarian and the nurturer. You do it to the best of your abilities, knowing there will be failures. Watching Doria, I saw all that.”
She put those thoughts into her poem.
Since then, “For the Dorias of the World” has been subjected to the inevitable indignities of anything shared online. In addition to being widely praised, it has been shared without her name on it, criticized for not being fair to fathers and revised to suit other people’s preferences. One version removed her reference to “black girl magic.”
She tries to stay philosophical about the misappropriations.
“It makes me really excited that people feel something I’ve written makes them feel valid and seen,” she said. “Once I put it out there, it is for the universe. If somebody reads it and connects with it, I’ve done my job.”
But if you see it or share it, give credit where it’s due: Lesle Honore of Chicago, who finishes her poem this way:
For the Dorias
Who know they are never alone
Who know there is a
Matriarchal militia marching
I raise my glass to all of us
Mary Schmich writes for the Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press www.chicagotribune.com.
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