Mari Evans Mural39.773757, -86.151427
Indianapolis honors Black Arts Movement pioneer author Mari Evans with a larger-than-life mural painted by artist Michael Jordan, aka ALKEMI, and curated by Big Car Collective.
b. 1919 – d. 2017
“I Am a Black Woman”
448 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204
“I Am a Black Woman” in I Am a Black Woman
I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard
in the night
I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I/with these hands/cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat’s swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew. . . . I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior’s beard
am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
on me and be
Big Car Collaborative cofounder Shauta Marsh worked with Mari Evans to plan for the larger-than-life mural. Evans herself selected artist Michael Jordan, aka ALKEMI, to paint the portrait in 2016.
“[Mari Evans] is truly the ideal woman. She was powerful but compassionate. She never minced words. She knew her value and did not settle. She wasn’t afraid to walk away from any person or situation where she wasn’t feeling valued.
—Shauta Marsh, Cofounder/Director
Big Car Collaborative and Tube Factory Artspace
“I Am a Black Woman,” by Mari Evans, is a poem that since the first time I read it has become an indelible artifact in the canon of my literary and spiritual consciousness. I have often drawn on these words as from a deep well, in times when I have personally needed their balm and at times when our nation’s ongoing reckoning with racial injustice (of whom Black women have been the most vulnerable) has struck me most deeply. A few years ago I wanted to attend a ceremony where Evans was being honored, but due to some unforeseen circumstance I could not. Instead, a friend brought me a personal autographed copy of Evans’s poem “I Am a Black Woman,” which I have dearly cherished. In honoring her prodigious legacy through this beautiful and timeless piece, I feel the opportunity come full circle in a more mystical meeting of her spirit, which manifests itself in the wide array of her creative brilliance, her poignant teaching and scholarship, her devotion to activism and community service within the city of Indianapolis, and her love and inestimable contribution to the Black Arts Movement. As a Black woman poet living in the city of Indianapolis, it was Mari Evans who unequivocally paved the way for me to claim this vocation as a real possibility, and I am both humbled and honored to pay tribute to her, an iconic local and national treasure.
—Manon Voice, poet and spoken word artist
Mari Evans was born in Toledo, Ohio, but spent the majority of her life in Indianapolis. Evans, who was an important poet in the Black Arts Movement, taught at Spelman College, Purdue University, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Cornell University and several other higher–education institutions. In 1968 she published her first work, Where Is All the Music?, followed two years later by her more famous I Am a Black Woman. Evans published many collections of poetry, children’s books, essays and plays throughout her career.
mari evans muraL
448 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Closest IndyGo Stops:
Mass Avenue & New Jersey Street (Route 38)
Delaware Street & New York Street (Routes 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 38)
How to Plan a Trip on IndyGo:
- Use the Trip Planner on IndyGo.net
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- Call IndyGo Customer Service at 317-635-3344
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You can visit a video exhibit titled, The Legacy of Mari Evans, in concourse A at the Indianapolis International Airport. The new digital art exhibit will include highlights of Evans’ life and legacy in Indy as well as excerpts from her poems.
This video shows the artist Michael “Alkemi” Jordan putting some of the final touches on the Mari Evans mural on Mass Ave. The mural and the artist both smile down at the onlookers who have gathered to marvel at the painting and to take pictures with Evans herself, who’s on location. The video also features Evans reading one of her poems, which celebrates two people joining together in love, not as half-beings who complete each other but as two whole people who complement each other.
Mari Evans helped shape the Black Arts Movement and inspired countless marginalized people to embrace their own identity. This Indianapolis Star article details Evans’s recognition with an Indiana Authors Award lifetime achievement award and some of her remarkable contributions to art, social work and the world as a whole.
Mari Evans seldom agreed to do interviews, instead preferring for her poetry and her writing to speak for her. But she made an exception when she received the Indiana Authors Award lifetime achievement award, agreeing to be interviewed on film as part of the celebration. In the recorded conversation she identifies herself as a political writer looking at the world “through a Black lens.” The video also includes clips of her television series, The Black Experience, which aired in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Evans created the series to offer her political insight into what was happening to Black communities in America, which she called “our family nation.”
Here is a link to another rare interview with Mari Evans, in which her keen self-knowledge is on full display. She touches on her time as an advocate for inmates and calls herself a private investigator, learning all she can about the city of Indianapolis and what has happened behind the scenes that others may not have known about. Evans measures her responses carefully, ever-mindful of the “sound” she wishes to “leave behind” her.