From RIT to life as a poet
Before his death last year, Marlon Evans ’74 was on a new path
Jan. 8, 2010
by Kathy Lindsley
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At age 17, Marlon B. Evans left his home near Tucson, Ariz., and drove to RIT. It was a very long journey for this member of the Gila River Community of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
“Marlon showed a good deal of bravado at RIT,” recalls Eric Mache ’74 (art and design). “He had a deep pride for his Native American roots and was always ready to fight anyone who said anything negative about them.”
In recent years, Mr. Evans ’74 (graphic arts) followed another path, earning a second bachelor’s degree, in creative writing, poetry and media arts from the University of Arizona. He was working on a master’s degree in American Indian Studies when he died July 28, 2009, in Mesa, Ariz.
“Marlon, Kim Jenkins, and I were inseparable friends at RIT,” recalls Mache, who lives in New York City. “We were an odd looking trio – Marlon being the only Native American at the school, me being skinny with long hair, and Kim, towering over both of us, lanky with a blond Afro. What brought us all together was a mutual love for rock music and we spent a lot of time going off in Marlon’s VW to various venues to see groups play. Marlon was an excellent drummer in his own right,” Mache continues.
“It wasn’t until I met up with Marlon again in Arizona, over 40 years later, that I realized that he had developed such a sensitive, artistic side. He was more self-assured than I had remembered, and was now an accomplished poet, highly regarded in his community. He had also been working with filmmakers and was planning to film a short that he had written. He wanted me to be the cameraman.”
In a recorded interview with Mache, Mr. Evans described himself as a shy, quiet youngster who worked hard to perfect his English skills.
“I was always in love with language because language is communication,” he said. “Language is the key to any culture.”
That interest led him to an advanced poetry workshop at Pima Community College in Tucson. His work has been published in Red Ink Magazine, a student-run publication at the University of Arizona under the auspices of the American Indian Studies Program. He also participated in numerous workshops, poetry festivals and readings in the region.
Mr. Evans aimed to tell stories using simple, direct language, he said in the interview with Mache. “I write about the grit, the realities of life.”
Mache says Mr. Evans’ passing leaves a great void. “We all have good friends in our lives, but Marlon was special, and I will always remember him as my brother and a great artist.”
A video of Mr. Evans reading his poem, “A Eurocentric Memoir,” can be viewed on YouTube.