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New Black Arts Movement poet Etheridge Knight mural soon to be unveiled

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new two-story mural honoring the life and legacy of Black Arts Movement poet Etheridge Knight is nearing its completion.

The Indy Arts Council says Knight who became a poet while incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City in the 1960s, was a regular at the Chatterbox where he hosted poetry workshops in the late 1980s.

The artist, Elio Mercado, says he’s thankful to have had the opportunity to celebrate his life through the arts.

“Being able to kind of represent someone in this scale that’s so important to the community I feel like it gives the community a sense of pride,” he said.

With every stroke of paint, Dominican artist Elio Mercado breathes life into the memory of Black poet, Etheridge Knight.

According to Mercado, the mural highlights Knight’s love for poetry by showing his hands with a pen.

“Every single element on the mural is actually a little piece from a poem and if you see the arm with the yellow sweater that’s actually from one of his readings at one of the high schools,” Mercado said.

The mural’s home is the Chatterbox Jazz Club on Mass Ave, which is where Knight taught some of his legendary Free People’s Poetry Workshops.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in poetry and criminal justice from what is now Martin University.

“To be able to put the mural on this building, it gives a little extra touch of being home where it’s supposed to be,” Mercado said.

The mural is the third in the City of Indianapolis Bicentennial Legends Series, which includes international cycling champion Marshall “Major” Taylor and entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker.

Indy Arts Council partnered with Butler University’s Etheridge Knight Archive, the EK Free Peoples Be Project, and the Knight family to create the mural.

Mercado says he hopes it’ll make a positive impact on everyone who passes by.

“I just feel like they’ll right away try to ask questions about who he was and then try to find out about some his work and one of the points of the mural for me was kind of like teach people about some of his past work and keep his memory moving forward,” he said.

Knight died in Indianapolis of lung cancer on March 10, 1991. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.

The Chatterbox says the dedication will take place on Friday, June 30 at the Chatterbox Jazz Club at 5:30 p.m.