Celebrated poet, activist and author William Brandon Lacy Campos has died. Campos’ body was discovered in New York City late Friday, according to a Facebook status made by his father. Campos had been HIV positive for the past ten years. He was only 35.
“I am living this life as lovingly as I can be as flawed as I am,” Campos reportedly said in one of his last Facebook messages. “My saving grace is that the God in which I believe has sent me more love than I Could believe my due and that love I have been able to share to u. To u amor.”
Campos was the co-executive director of Queers for Economic Justice and a prominent figure within the nation’s social activist and “artivist” communities. He was also a prolific blogger, social media personality, poet and author. Brandon Campos was the author of the poetry collection It Ain’t Truth If It Doesn’t Hurt. Campos was also a contributor to the critically-acclaimed 2011 anthology From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction.
“Brandon Campos was luminous,” New York City-based writer, scholar and social activist Darnell Moore told Rod 2.0. Moore is the co-author with former NFL player Wade Davis of a bi-monthly column on Black masculinity for Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices.” “Campos was full of love and light. He yearned to be in community with others. ”
The Minnesota-born Campos’ great-great uncle was the early and preeminent Black historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second Black man to be awarded a doctorate from Harvard University and the founder of Black History Month. Campos was also a social activist and founding member of the Green Party LGBT caucus.
Campos was multi-racial and discussed the intersections of race, colorism, sexuality and gender while delivering the keynote address at Tuft University’s annual Black Solidarity Day on Monday, November 6. The speech was called “A New Kind of Blackness.”
“I’ve spent a long time thinking about blackness. About, roughly, all of my 35 years walking around this planet. I guess that makes me some sort of an expert, but mostly it makes me confused, angry, celebratory, conflicted, colonized, dehumanized, aggrandized, powerful, vulnerable, righteous, and a whole host of other adjectives.
“I am standing in front of you a black, white, Ojibwe, Afro-Boricua, HIV positive, queer man. And I am just as black as any of you. You are my community, you are my salvation. I am in community with my queer and trans black family and being queer or trans doesn’t make you less black than anyone else. It’s time for us to realize that HIV stopped being a white gay disease a long time ago, it’s now a black and Latin[o] disease and it’s time to hold up our positive brothers and sisters as our own. No more high yellow and midnight blue conversations when talking about skin unless its to talk about how that high yellow or midnight blue person rocked your socks last night.”
“I [initially] thought Brandon was a bit unhinged and too daring at times,” Chicago-based poet, author and youth activist Tim’m Westtold Rod 2.0. The two sat on the November 2010 panel “Live OUT Loud: Men of Color Creating HIV Awareness Through Art and Activism” at New York York University . “Brandon was passionately transparent and committed to embodying a freedom most of us only pay lip service to. I know of no one else like him, which deepens the loss.
In addition to his many literary achievements, Campos’ also connected with many people by being honest about his serostatus and battles with crystal methamphetamine, friends and colleagues tell R20. Campos wrote a compelling essay on this for TheBody.com entitled “Queer, Poz and Colored.” Campos humorously described himself as a “hot mess.”
I went to one of the best public high schools in the United States, and I am a college graduate. I am a writer that has been published in a number of anthologies. I was the only non-Ph.D. candidate to co-author a chapter in a book that will be out this fall concerning queer history in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I have had a play taught at Macalester College, I have guest lectured at a number of colleges and universities, and I had my first magazine column when I was 21 years old.
I am also queer, HIV positive, a recovering meth addict, and on occasion, a hot mess. I developed my meth addiction AFTER testing positive. Following my first and most extreme paranoid episode, where I believed the FBI were on a flight with me from Albuquerque to Minnesota, I called every person I loved, including my mother, while crying in the airport, believing I was about to be arrested and taken to jail, and told each of them that I was a drug addict and HIV positive. I totally went over my minutes that evening. I spent roughly six months in rehab at the Pride Institute in Minneapolis, and to this day, I struggle with recovery.
News of Campos’ death spread quickly across cyberspace. Kenyon Farrow, the author, social actvist and very good friend of the deceased, was among the first to report the tragic news anddozens of tributes have been posted to Farrow’s Facebook. “I’m still in shock to find out less than an hour ago that my friend William Brandon Lacy Campos,” the former executive director of Queers for Economic Justice said in a Facebook status mesage. “I’m in a state of disbelief.”
Author and editor La Marr Jurelle Bruce also posted the news late last night. “[Campos] was a prism that shined love,” wrote Bruce, a doctoral student in African-American history at Yale University and a contrbuting editor to For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Still Not Enough. “He gladly received it when you beamed it back to him. Surely he’s swimming, floating, twirling, dancing and glowing inside unspeakable, unfathomable love right now.”
Campos had many talents and “will have an incredible lasting legacy,” Virginia-based novelist Rodney Lofton told R20. “The last time I saw Brandon, we were in New York City shooting a documentary together for [filmmaker] Maurice Jamal. A number of years had passed since we worked on queer youth issues with the National Youth Advocacy Coalition. But Brandon was still the same man I met in 2000,” said the author of No More Tomorrows and The Day I Stopped Being Pretty. “Focused, determined, energetic and passionate. He took lemons and made lemonade.”
Chicago-based writer and cultural critic L. Michael Gipson also knew Campos for many years. “I met Brandon when he was about 22 years old. I knew him to be a fierce and courageous warrior for LGBTQ rights, a drop dead gorgeous man, and one of the brightest lights you ever had the privilege to see,” Gipson told R20.
“His death has made reminded me how short life can be,” added Gipson, the editor of Soultracks.com and curator of a popular Facebook micro-blog. “It’s frightened me into wondering if we will see another wave of premature gay male deaths like in the 1980s. It feels like I’ve begun burying a steady trickle of people, none who’ve made 50.”
Brandon Lacy was 35-years-old. There is no word yet on burial or final arrangements.