Following the election of Kamala Harris as vice president in November, Chicago poet Leslé Honoré updated a poem she wrote in 2017 to celebrate the historic nature of Harris’ win. The new version of “Brown Girl, Brown Girl” quickly made its way through social media, inspiring many Black and Brown women to share their own feelings about seeing a woman of color elected to the country’s second-highest office.
Honoré recalled the moment she heard that Harris had been elected.
“I think like everyone we were all pins and needles waiting for it to finally be called, and driving with my oldest daughter Sage got a text for my girlfriends from Xavier, my crew, and they were like, ‘We did it! We got the votes.’ And she said, ‘Mom, go ahead and pull over, you know you’re going to want to write about it.’”
Honoré said she had planned to write an entirely new poem, but “Brown Girl” kept coming to mind. “So I just made a couple of edits on my phone and posted it, and have been enjoying the ride ever since,” she said.
As a biracial woman, a distinction she calls “quintessentially American,” Honoré says she identifies with Harris, who is Black and Indian.
“Growing up, there wasn’t really a box to check for being biracial, not even in the census, until the late ‘90s,” Honoré said. “As the daughter of a Black man from New Orleans and my mother [who] immigrated from Mexico when she was 15, I’m also very proud of being the daughter of an immigrant and what that means to the American story.”
Though Honoré has had poems about a myriad of subjects go viral – from social justice to motherhood – she says the response to her “Brown Girl” redux was special.
“I’ve been very lucky, been very blessed that so many people have identified with what I write. … And so to have so many people connect with it and share it, for someone to take the time to read a poem on Facebook, it always blows me away but this was so different,” she said. “To have mothers reach out and send me videos of their daughters reading the poem it just, it makes me well up.”
As the nation prepares to inaugurate the first woman of color as vice president, we asked some local girls to join Honoré for their spin on “Brown Girl, Brown Girl.” Our thanks to Chicago Children’s Choir members Lea Perez, Nia Ballard, Morgan Robinson, Imani Ballard and Riley Callahan, and Adventure Stage Chicago’s Genesis Clark, for their performances.