Backpacks – Lesle Honore

July 27, 2020

When black boys are born 

We mothers kiss their faces 

Twirl our fingers in their curls 

Put them in carriers on our chest 

Show them to the world 

Our tiny black princes 

And when they start school 

As early as 3

We mothers 

Place huge back packs on their backs 

And we slowly fill them with bricks 

Etched with tools 

Tattooed with truths 

Hoping to save them 

Don’t talk back 

Don’t get angry 

Say yes ma’am 

Say no sir 

Don’t fight

Even if they hit you first

Especially if they are white 

Do your best 

Better than best 

Be still 

Work hardest 


they get a little older 

And we add more 

Keep your hands out of your pockets 

Don’t look them in the eye 

Don’t challenge 

Don’t put your manhood before your life 

Just get home safe 

Don’t walk alone 

Don’t walk with too many boys 

Don’t walk towards police 

Don’t walk away from police 

Don’t buy candy or ice tea

Don’t put your hood up 

I’ll drive you 

I’ll pick you up 

You can’t be free 

Don’t go wandering 

Come home to me 


They get a little older 

And we add more 

Understand you are a threat

Standing still 


Your degrees are not a shield 

Your job is not a shield 

Your salary makes you a target 

Your car makes you a target 

Your nice house in a nice neighborhood 

Makes you a target 

Don’t put your ego before your safety 

Don’t talk back 

Don’t look them in the eye

Get home to your wife 

Your son


They weigh them down. 

This knowing 

Of having to carry the load 

Of their blackness 

the world hasn’t changed  

The straps just dig deeper into their skin 

Their backs ache 

But their souls don’t break 

Our beautiful black men 

When you say to me 

All lives matter 

I simply ask

Will your son die with the world on his back 

Mine will


Reprinted with the kind permission of the author, Lesle Honoré.

Lesle’s beautiful anthology, Fist & Fire, is available here:

from and Amazon worldwide


Images from top left hand, clockwise:

Jordan Davis, killed aged 17 years on November 23, 2012, shot while in a car at a petrol station with 3 friends by Michael Dunn who thought their “thug music” was too loud.

Victor White III, killed aged 22 years on March 2, 2014. Coroner’s report states that while his hands were shackled behind his back in the rear of a police car, left-handed Victor managed to find a gun (he had been searched twice by police before being placed in the vehicle) and shoot himself on the right side of his chest. Shackles are like handcuffs but without the chain in between so the hands are right next to each other.

Tamir Rice, killed aged 12 on November 22, 2014 while playing with a toy gun in a gazebo.

Trayvon Martin, killed aged 17 years on February 26, 2012 while walking back to his father’s fiancee’s house from the shops with a packet of Skittles and a drink.

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