Friends, family pay tribute to world-renowned poet, activist Mari Evans

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In a ceremony Monday afternoon, family, friends and contemporaries paid tribute to Mari Evans, who died earlier this month.

Evans was a world-renowned poet and author. She first gained prominence during the Black Arts Movement.

Plenty of Indianapolis officials, including Mayor Joe Hogsett and Deputy Mayor David Hampton, were in attendance. The service was also highlighted by other literary figures such as Sonia Sanchez, who read a poem in Evans’ honor.

Evans, who was born in Toledo, Ohio but spent most of her life in central Indiana, would also become a teacher at IUPUI, Indiana University in Bloomington and Purdue University in the 1970s.

She is widely-known for her poetry, short-fiction stories, children’s books and theater pieces. Her most renowned book of poetry is “I am a Black Woman,” which was published in 1970.

Additionally, she produced, wrote and directed a television program called “The Black Experience” for WTTV from 1968 to 1973.

Last summer, artist Michael “Alkemi” Jordan unveiled a mural of Evans on a building along Mass Ave.

Family members called her a literary giant. A woman with a soft voice that carried loudly.

“Her spirit is still alive in the family, her teachings are still alive. And what we carry on forth will be proud for her to say we are family and we are proud to have her as our grandmother,” her grandson Chris Phemster said.

Perhaps the most touching moment of the ceremony came when Evans’ great-grandson Matthew Phemster played a saxophone rendition of the song “Amazing Grace.” Moments before Phemster took the stage, a home video was shown of Evans teaching her grandson the song while she played the piano.

Family members say Evans’ legacy will be one of strength and truth, and last far beyond her years.

She was 97 when she died.

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