Mari Evans

Mari Evans

“Free the mind of the people
Speak to the mind of the people
Speak Truth”

Mari Evans
Photo: C.B. Claiborne, 1994

An educator, writer, and musician, Mari Evans taught at Indiana University, St. Louis, the State University of New York at Albany, the University of Miami at Coral Gables and Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Evans is the author of four children’s books, two musicals, and four volumes of poetry, including I Am A Black Woman (1970), A Dark and Splendid Mass (1992), and Continuum (2007), among other works. She also edited the highly acclaimed Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation (1984) and published Clarity as Concept: A Poet’s Perspective in 2006. Her work has been widely anthologized in collections and textbooks, and her poems have appeared in several languages, including German, Swedish, French and Dutch. Mari Evans died in 2017.

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Speak Truth to the People

Speak the truth to the people
Talk sense to the people
Free them with honesty
Free the people with Love and Courage for their Being
Spare them the fantasy
Fantasy enslaves
A slave is enslaved
Can be enslaved by unwisdom
Can be re-enslaved while in flight from the enemy
Can be enslaved by his brother whom he loves
His brother whom he trusts whom he loves
His brother whom he trusts
His brother with the loud voice
And the unwisdom
Speak the truth to the people
It is not necessary to green the heart
Only to identify the enemy
It is not necessary to blow the mind
Only to free the mind
To identify the enemy is to free the mind
A free mind has no need to scream
A free mind is ready for other things
To BUILD black schools
To BUILD black children
To BUILD black minds
To BUILD black love
To BUILD black impregnability
To BUILD a strong black nation
Speak the truth to the people
Spare them the opium of devil-hate
They need no trips on honky-chants.
Move them instead to a BLACK ONENESS.
A black strength which will defend its own
Needing no cacophony of screams for activation
A black strength which will attack the laws
exposes the lies, disassembles the structure
and ravages the very foundation of evil.
Speak the truth to the people
To identify the enemy is to free the mind
Free the mind of the people
Speak to the mind of the people
Speak Truth 

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
and I
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
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior’s beard

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

Alabama Landscape

See the ancient underbrush
the disciplined entanglement
wild welt of trees and gullies
traps of mud and broken branch
the hairline brook, the secret water
see the stirring, see him coming
modulating thru the silence
leaping sinkholes, torn confusion
buckling knees then grace regained
he ducks and dodges
		Black man running
    claiming Freedom
thru the ageless sun and shadow
vanishes from sight he is at once both
Past and Present, history repeated
	history relearned

History relived
the Present savagely contrived, the
Past still swollen, still unhealed and 
	All transition merely language.
What was tar, and rope, and flame was 
	rape and scrounge
		is magnum now,
    is unrelenting chokehole

	   Sanctioned lynchings
		Still orgasmic

The time is surely near
when we reluctantly have learned 
what lessons time intends to teach
And such intransigence as now
is veiled and hid we will release
When “for their thousand blows” return
	a thousand ten
However unannounced, the Truth is clear:
Until we stand, until we act
the murders, the oppression still
	    the unabated war
	we seem unable to define
		goes on

Black man running
thru the ageless sun and shadow
	still unavenged
History repeated past all logic
Who is it bides the time and why?
	And for how long?
There will be no one left, for ovens