When We Arrived: Re-Membering Etheridge Knight

I have been a fan of Sonia Sanchez ever since I found her in the library book shelf during my sophomore year in high school.  I wanted to know all about her/where she got her name/where was she educated/did she have children/was she married.  And yes she was married twice, once to a fellow poet named, Etheridge Knight.

His name escaped me until I heard mention of him mixed in the music of one of my favorite musicians, Meshell Ndegeocello.  I fell in love with the scat rhythm of his prose.  I loved the decorated rainbow’s bend of addiction he painted and his freed, imprisoned connection to his family.  I met him through the poetic piece, “The Idea of Ancestry”.

etheridge knight

Knights’ work was prominent during the Black Arts Movement which flourished in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Born in Mississippi but primarily raised in Indiana, Knight became and drug addict at an early age before serving in the Korean War.  After his discharge, his addiction took precedence again and Knight was given a lengthy prison sentence after snatching a woman’s purse to support his habit.  This stent in prison, introduced Knight to a voice of injustice translated through poetry.  He made many contacts with poets in the movement and even had Gwendolyn Brooks as one of his mentors.

Knight became known as a “truly African oral performer.”  Just listen to his words or time travel with one of his collections of work one afternoon and you’ll understand why his works places him at the “vanguard of any discussion of the history of African American poetic letters.”

Re-membering, Etheridge Knight today, 4/19/31 – 3/10/91.





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