Mari Evans

Mari Evans (1923-2017)

Credit: Indianapolis Recorder

Raised in Toledo, Evans spent most of her long adult life in Indianapolis, which has honored her with a mural on Massachusetts Avenue. Through her poetry, especially her collection I Am a Black Woman (1970), she became a major figure in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

In the course of her life she also wrote works of fiction, drama, children’s books, essays, edited anthologies, and taught at several universities, including Indiana University, Purdue University, and Cornell University.

Her poem, I Am a Black Woman, concludes with the lines:

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
Look on me and be

by Mari Evans

I will bring you a whole person
and you will bring me a whole person
and we will have us twice as much
of love and everything.
I be bringing a whole heart
and while it do have nicks and
dents and scars,
that only make me lay it down
more careful-like.
An’ you be bringing a whole heart
a little chipped and rusty an’
sometime skip a beat but
still an’ all you bringing polish too
and look like you intend
to make it shine.
And we be bringing, each of us
the music of ourselves to wrap
the other in
Forgiving clarities
soft as a choir’s last
lingering note our
personal blend.
I will bring you someone whole
and you will bring me someone whole
and we be twice as strong
and we be twice as sure
and we will have us twice as much
of love
and everything.


Evans, whose married name had been Phemster, was the divorced mother of two sons who are buried in adjacent lots along with a grandson.

WRTV, as part of their celebration of Black History Month, produced this piece to celebrate both her life and the downtown mural:

Section 211, Lot 1043; GPS (39.8249975, -86.1753795)