Brian J. Evans: Altitude

March 25, 2024 Brian J. Evans
Accessibility, Faces of MTF

Brian J. Evans is a Citizen Artist. A Citizen Artist is defined by the Aspen Institute Arts Program as: 

Individuals who reimagine the traditional notions of art-making, and who contribute to society either through the transformative power of their artistic abilities, or through proactive social engagement with the arts in realms including education, community building, diplomacy and healthcare. 

Courtesy of SPDT pc: V. Paul Virtucio
Courtesy of SPDT pc: V. Paul Virtucio

Mixing disciplines, mixing professions, and mixed race, Brian J. Evans unpacks the “moments of suspension” that reside in the spaces between spaces—convinced that connections exist between us all and it is the responsibility of the Arts to remind us to be holistically human, lest we forget. Courageous vulnerability and intentional equity keep him aloft as he finds ways to give back and add to the communities, mentors, and ancestors who blazed trails and continue to do so! Evans believes it is the responsibility of the Arts to rediscover existing connections within humanity.

Please enjoy Brian’s spoken word embodiment of the poem:

Audio support by Asha Tamirisa


So let me set the scene: Mountaintop vistas, slightly overcast skies (the kind where the sun’s rays find a way through, leaving all of the warmth and none of the glare), I’m still bundled up a bit, with legit gear (you know the type that armors you up so you can’t possibly feel emotion), I’ve got lotion on that smells of cocoa butter and SPF 100 (Which I know I probably don’t need but I borrowed it from my white partner who burns just thinking of the sun), and I haven’t seen a person of color for miles on this trail but I’ve gotten the “opportunity” to perfect my 20 to 10 meter, “I Am Safe,” face with the obligatory side shuffle stop as I wait for the “they” to go by and I am suddenly struck by a cliche.

You, know they say a picture is worth a thousand words… but who might I ask is this “they”? Is it the “they” who claims this trail? The “they” in charge of the aperture, the opening the closing. The censure conjecture, of pressure, to measure the center of my soul as it weighs whether or not I belong here. A soul lifted and lofted by the general knowledge–that I must have learned in college–that this land belongs to “they”, under the guise of we or worse no body. Not belongs, as in bought and paid for–though there is a fair amount of that–no, it’s a general sort of knowledge that makes me feel lonely. Alone on this trail where the wind runs parallel to every single grief-laced cloud that dipped its toe and set the scene for sorrow.

Kari Mosel Photography
Kari Mosel Photography

I borrow this stretch of land, that the “they” allows me to stand upon with permit in hand, park pass purchased by wages from a never-ending-bending of the truth; bent so bad it be broken as cheap as tokenism seem insightful. Despite that though–I do feel calm. A kind of otherworldly acknowledgment of respectful insignificance and the difference is, that as insatiable as the world that occupies my mind, renting time for two cents on every dime, I am reminded of joy.

Kari Mosel Photography
Kari Mosel Photography

Terrible Awfuly Lonely Joy!?

Which more often than sometimes is the only joy I am able to partake in. ‘Cuz there typically is too much at stake. Constantly discovering that authenticated authenticity is fake. The natural world has been so beautifully manicured. Polished and shiny with vibrant colors, shellacked thick with veneer. I imagine the ironic hyperbolic sneer on every elder’s face when we speak of protected lands. Lands passed through SPF hands, trails built dictated by maps on a former work plan, designed precisely to cover up the horror. It’s sobering how absolutely drunk on power the “they” were, are, will be, and still, I find myself in awe of its majesty. 

A betrayal of a trail. 

I wonder what the name of it is. I wonder if I am lost. I wonder if I have ever been found within the real natural world. I wonder how, like in society, if I ever actually truly belonged. If my side shuffle stop was also passed on by that one drop. 

Top of the mountain, crisp clean air, no one around to stare at my heavy breath. I’m left with the varied options of which path to descend because there is no way to rise up any farther. 

A beautiful dead end. Which coincidentally is how all trails to a summit conclude, which I knew so I don’t know why I have such an altitude. I think it is because of another cliche, the one about standing on the shoulders of giants, perhaps like a forest gnome or a symbiotic parasite, a blight on what otherwise would be a perfectly good set of scapula, the fact that a mixed-race racer is racing up a racist trail of conquest to the top of these shoulders, these mountains are gorgeous these gorges are gorgeous, and I would like to feel as though I belong. A longing for so long, we turned it into a song. Hit it Tammi: Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from you. It’s true … but is it my job to convince you?

Kari Mosel Photography
Kari Mosel Photography

Unbeknownst to me, I have been set on the most treacherous of paths. It’s found on the backside of the mountain. The sun’s rays can’t quite reach it, so it is the last face to thaw. It’s bracketed by sharp and irregularly shaped boulders shellacked in that thick veneer masquerading as ice and snow, and you know if you slip and fall into the current just below, you will be lost forever. 

Kari Mosel Photography
Kari Mosel Photography

We endeavor. We the courageous dare to be vulnerable in the face of the faceless. When it’s no one’s fault, except our own (apparently), that we find ourselves on this trail. A trail not built with us in mind. We the divine, who devine and define a more sustainable way down, back to the ground. As safe as a long-awaited rental car on the side of the road: Joy. 

Terrible Awfuly Lonely Joy!?

We who made it to this day, on the shoulders, the gorgeous mountain of people who didn’t. 


So let me set the scene: Mountaintop vistas, slightly overcast skies.


Brian shared another story here with our friends at the Nature Based Education Consortium's Stories for Change project.



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