It is with a heavy heart that I share news of the passing of Brandon Lacy Campos. Brandon was a longtime activist, a prolific writer -- journalist, blogger, novelist, poet -- and an electrifying performer and public speaker. He also had a face filled with wisdom and mischief; a laugh you could not help but join with your own; a presence that could best be described as radiant. He died in New York City this past Friday, Nov. 9; at the time of this writing, the cause of his death had not been determined. He was 35 years old.
"I am standing in front of you a black, white, Ojibwe, Afro-Boricua, HIV-positive, queer man," Brandon stated at his final speaking engagement, the keynote speech at Tufts University's annual Black Solidarity Day this past Monday; "And I am just as black as any of you. You are my community, you are my salvation." Brandon wrote with passion and candor about the intersections and contradictions of race, class, gender and sexuality in his own life, and in U.S. culture, on his blog on TheBody.com and through many other outlets. He applied this same unbridled honesty in sharing his experiences as an activist, a partner, a lover, a feminist, a community member; a person living with HIV, in recovery from addiction and often struggling with disclosure.
Brandon was a regular contributor to TheBody.com from June 2010 until the day before President Obama's reelection; I had the honor and the pleasure of working with him in this capacity for this entire period. While Brandon exited the closet in his late teens "with a roar and a high kick" -- as he told it once in an op-ed for The Advocate -- and had worked in queer community since that time, coming out as HIV positive and contributing to a blog focused exclusively on his thoughts and experiences as a person living with HIV scared the hell out of him. Yet still he did it, with empathy, bravery and elegance.
In a particularly powerful March 2011 entry, Brandon had this to say to his readers in the HIV community:
For having a chance to live with dignity and forgiveness, I am going to give a standing ovation to all of you, near and far, that have taken a moment to write a note, share a thought, emote an experience, and share the love. It's all ya'll that help me see the inherent virtue and the purpose that live at the exact intersection of our contradictions.
Within hours of his passing, Brandon's Facebook page was adorned with hundreds of heartfelt statements from those who'd had even the briefest of encounters with him. He leaves behind scores of friends and family, both biological and extended; my thoughts are with them as they cope with this profound loss.
There is so much still to say about Brandon's life, and the ways he touched so many of ours. It is criminal to have to memorialize someone whose time in our midst was so short. Still, Brandon filled that time to its brim with richness, principled action, passionate creativity and boundless love. On our final days, may we all be able to make a similar claim.
For more details on Brandon's professional and literary accomplishments, as well as quotes from colleagues and friends, we urge you to read Rod McCullom's obituary for Brandon on Rod 2.0; or this piece on Advocate.com, to which Brandon was also a contributor. Please also feel free to share your remembrances of Brandon in the comments section below.
More Memorials and News Pieces on Brandon:
Olivia Ford is the community manager of TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.