William Brandon Lacy Campos

Campos, William Brandon Lacy 2017

William Brandon Lacy Campos was born on August 31, 1977 (to November 9, 2012). He was a poet, writer, social media personality, prolific blogger and columnist, as well as a policy wonk, organizer, and warrior focusing on civil rights, feminism, LGBTQ equality, and HIV/AIDS.

Known simply as Brandon to his many friends, William Brandon Lacy Campos was born in Duluth, Minnesota, to Deborah Carey Watt and William Edward Lacy. His great-great uncle was 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 had a troubled youth, suffering physical and emotional abuse early on.

He attended schools in Minneapolis, and graduated in 1995 from Patrick Henry High School, where he served as a member of the Student Council. While still in his teens, Campos became co-chair of the National Queer Student Coalition, and began writing a column for “Oasis” magazine in March of 1996. He was a graduate of the National LGBT Task Force’s Youth Leadership Training Institute in 1999. Campos continued his education at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa Valley, North Carolina; the Universidad de Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, where he majored in feminist studies; and at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he graduated in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Spanish.

William Brandon Lacy Campos worked in Oakland, California, at the Center for Media Justice, a national movement to strengthen the communications effectiveness of grassroots racial justice efforts. He previously served as Associate Director/Fellow for the Democratizing Elections for Liberty Tree Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin. Campos arrived in New York City in June of 2009, and accepted a position as Development and Marketing Manager for Words Without Borders. Eager to meet other activists and writers, he joined his friend Charlie Vázquez, who was hosting a monthly reading series in the East Village called “Hispanic Panic.”

Campos served as co-executive director of Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), and was a prominent figure within the nation’s social activist and “artivist” communities. While at QEJ, he worked on LGBTQ issues of social justice in New York City. His service began there in June of 2011, when he accepted a position as Development Director.

Campos was an emerging voice who garnered respect and admiration in the writing, spoken word, and arts communities across the United States. In March 2011, he contributed to the anthology, “From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction.” A few months later, Campos published his poetry collection, “It Ain’t Truth If It Doesn’t Hurt” (Rebel Satori Press) with illustrations by his friend and former partner, David Berube. He was the author of the blog, “My Feet Only Walk Forward”, and a contributor to the “Huffington Post,” discussing Black masculinity, image, perception, and stigma. Campos also contributed a regular column to “The Body” magazine, entitled “Queer, Poz and Colored.” In 2009, MyLatinoVoice.com named him the “number two, queer Latino blogger to watch.”

His poetry was published in the “Ganymede” literary journal, and he was a contributor to the “Queer Twin Cities History Project,” a 2010 LGBTQ oral history collection. Campos also contributed to Emanuel Xavier’s poetry collection, “Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry,” as well as to “Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change: New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America’s Youth.”  He was the host and author of the “Naked Poetry” series on YouTube.

In 2006, the “Minneapolis Star Tribune” named Campos a “Young Wonk to Watch,” for his insane love of breaking down complex public policy issues into language the rest of us could understand. In addition, Campos guest lectured at several colleges and universities on the intersection of race, sexual orientation, and art as a tool for social change. He performed Off-Broadway as the opening act for Bebe Zahara Benet’s “Queendom.” He also created the Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry in honor of his grandfather.

William Brandon Lacy Campos was a board member of the Audre Lorde Project, and an active supporter of the Hetrick-Martin Institute. He became a model, spokesperson, and an early supporter for Volttage.com, a dating site aimed at eliminating stigma, and providing support to the HIV-positive community. Campos was also a founding member of “Lavender Greens,” the Green Party’s LGBT Caucus. He was a regular presenter and participant at the National LGBT Task Force’s annual “Creating Change Conference,” and co-chaired the United States Student Association’s Queer Student Coalition.

Campos lived with HIV for years and, in his online writings, made no effort to contain his fury at those who contributed to the ongoing stigma faced by those in his situation. Always candid and often blunt, he described himself as “a poet, playwright, journalist, amateur chef, and life commentator doing his bit to put his foot in the asses of the regressive masses, while putting filling and nutritious food on plates of folks that ain’t got much and deserve better.”

In a 2012 speech at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference at Hampshire College, he called for HIV to be a central concern of the movement for reproductive freedom. “Let me be clear,” he extoled his audience. “HIV isn’t over. It’s relevant to your work. It’s relevant to your lives. It is not just a disease that affects white gay men. It isn’t a disease that impacts only men of color on the down-low. In fact, it isn’t a disease that impacts only men. Women, and specifically women of color, and even more specifically African American and Latina women, are the fastest-growing population of people living with HIV. And with 300,000 women living with HIV in the United States, and women representing more than 50 percent of HIV cases around the world, you cannot in justice or in faith, remove issues of HIV from reproductive justice.”

On November 6, 2012, at Tufts University’s annual Black Solidarity Day, he tackled a recurrent theme in his life—his status as a multi-racial man. “I am standing in front of you a Black, white, Ojibwe, Afro-Boricua, HIV-positive queer man,” he told the gathering. “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. No more high yellow and midnight blue conversations when talking about skin, unless it’s to talk about how that high yellow or midnight blue person rocked your socks last night.”

William Brandon Lacy Campos held nothing back when talking about his addiction to crystal meth, and his battles with depression, racism, and homophobia. He wrote candidly about his HIV-positive status, and as a gay man of color living with HIV, he literally bared his soul for all to see. Campos spoke out not just for the LGBTQ community and those living with HIV, but for those who may have felt that they had no voice. He was a dedicated blogger whose raw honesty, anger, and emphatic certainty could startle and even put people off.

Campos died unexpectedly in New York City on November 9, 2012. The artist and activist was only 35 years old. At the time of his death, he had been putting the finishing touches on his debut novel, “Eden Lost,” and working on his second poetry collection, “Songs My Ancestors Sing to Me When I Am Dreaming.” Services were held near Campos’ parents at United Methodist Church in Ronceverte, West Virginia; he is interred at Mt. Zion Baptist Cemetery in Sinks Grove, West Virginia.

Tribute events were held in his adopted hometown of New York City, and on the one-year anniversary of Campos’ passing, Café SouthSide in Minneapolis formally dedicated its revamped library in his memory. He is remembered as a man who touched the lives of others everywhere he went, with a smile that could light up a room, and a passion for social justice that ignited souls. “He was someone who took the time to actually connect with people face-to-face, person-to-person, and who cooked from his soul—as he fed not only stomachs but hearts,” said friend Aundaray Guess.

“I am living this life as lovingly as I can be as flawed as I am,” Campos reportedly stated 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.”

We remember William Brandon Lacy Campos, and thank him for his passionate activism, and for making a difference in the lives of others.

Keith Boykin

Boykin, Keith 2017

Keith Boykin was born on August 28, 1965. He is a CNN political commentator, a New York Times best-selling author, assistant adjunct professor of political science at Columbia University, journalist, actor, and public speaker.

Keith Boykin was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to William Boykin, a bus driver, salesman and businessman, and Shirley Hayes, a federal government employee; he has a sister, Krystal. Although the couple separated when Boykin was just a boy, the family remained close, and Boykin was raised in the nearby suburb of Florissant.

“I was lucky to have a family that believed in my dreams and I suffered no lack of creativity in my fantasies,” wrote Boykin in his book, “One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America.” Often, I would close my door and dream about anything and everything, from what it would be like to go to college to imagining the life of the President.”

When Boykin was 15, his mother moved to California, and his father to Florida, where Boykin attended Countryside High School in Clearwater. Boykin already had politics in his blood—he was student body president of his mostly white high school in Florida, just as he had been at his elementary school back in Missouri. It was during this time that Boykin recalls feeling the first indications that he was not the same as other boys.

“We were all different from the majority of our neighbors,” he recalled in “One River to Cross: Black and Gay in America.” “But something else was different about me, and I felt it distinguished me not only from my friends but from my family as well. I knew something inside me was happening and I was frightened that I would not be able to deal with it.” Boykin dated girls while in high school, but admits to taking an all-too-curious interest in watching his fellow male students at wrestling practice.

Boykin graduated high school and left Clearwater to attend college at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, where he was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, a track athlete, and exchange student in Spain. After earning a degree in government in 1987, Boykin spent the next year and a half working for Michael Dukakis’ unsuccessful presidential campaign, during which he met then-Arkansas governor and future president Bill Clinton. Boykin moved to Atlanta before being accepted by Harvard Law School. He was a leader in the campus diversity movement, and general editor of the “Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.” Boykin also interned at several law firms.

But it was also during his education at Harvard Law that Boykin began to accept that he was gay. Thanks to a friendship with a fellow student, he was able to begin reconciling his own feelings with the negative stereotypes of the LGBTQ community he had learned while growing up.

“Since I was not particularly effeminate and had never desired to dress in women’s clothes, I thought I could not possibly be gay,” he stated in “One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America.” “I identified homosexuality not by sexual behavior but primarily by failure to conform to gender roles.” He eventually came out to his family, even as he struggled with his religious beliefs and the fear that he would be “ostracized” by his friends, and denied opportunities in the political world.

After receiving his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law in 1992, Boykin took a job at a San Francisco law firm before being snatched away by the Bill Clinton/Al Gore presidential campaign. After Clinton’s election, Boykin became a Special Assistant to the President, and Director of Specialty Media. He was the highest-ranking openly gay person in the Clinton White House, and helped to organize the nation’s first meeting between LGBTQ leaders and a sitting U.S. President in April 1993.

Boykin left the White House in 1995 to write “One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America.” He says the book “chronicles the experiences of hundreds of black lesbians and gay men and explores their interactions with the white gay community and straight black community. Other topics tackled by the work include the Black church, homophobia, and racism. The book was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award—the first of four nominations for Boykin.

That same year, Boykin participated as an openly gay man in the Million Man March on Washington, DC, and became executive director of the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum (NBGLLF). The following year, President Clinton fueled speculation that it was Boykin who was the mystery author of the runaway best-seller “Primary Colors,” a fictional account of a presidential campaign that mirrored the characters and events of the 1992 Clinton/Gore campaign. Several months later, columnist Joe Klein revealed that he had actually penned the novel.

Boykin’s second book, “Respecting the Soul,” was released in 1999 and won the Lambda Literary Award. Over the next two years, he taught political science at American University in Washington, DC. Beginning in December 2003, Boykin served as a founder and first president of the board of the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization with a mission of fighting racism and homophobia. A year later, Boykin starred in the Showtime television series “American Candidate,” was named by “Out” magazine as one of the “100 Most Intriguing People of 2004,” and he released his third book, “Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America.” Boykin was awarded a Gold medal in wrestling at the Gay Games in Chicago in 2006.

From 2006 to 2008, Boykin became a regular fixture on television screens as co-host of the BET J series “My Two Cents,” interviewing celebrities, politicians, and public figures. During this time, he began making regular appearances as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and BET. His work included analysis of the 2008 presidential and vice-presidential debates, and the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Boykin’s most recent book, “For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Still Not Enough,” was released in 2012 to widespread acclaim. The compilation of writing from some of the most dynamic LGBTQ/SGL voices in America sheds light on gay men of color “coming of age, coming out, and coming home to their families and communities.” The effort was rewarded with the American Library Association Stonewall Award for Nonfiction in 2013.

Boykin’s profile was raised significantly during the presidential campaign and eventual election of Donald Trump in 2016. He has not been shy about his dislike of Trump, particularly when the White House did not observe Pride Month in June 2017.

Boykin’s other accomplishments include editing the online news site “The Daily Voice,” serving as associate producer of the 2007 feature film “Dirty Laundry,” and appearing on the 2014 BET drama series “Being Mary Jane.” He has appeared on VH1, Fox News, NPR, and numerous national media programs, including “Anderson Cooper 360” and “The O’Reilly Factor.” Boykin has been featured or quoted in the “New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” “USA Today,” “Vibe,” and “Jet,” and has appeared on the covers of “A&U,” “Out,” and “The Advocate.”

Boykin has written for the “Village Voice,” the “San Francisco Chronicle,” the “St. Petersburg Times,” “The Advocate,” “Black Issues Book Review,” and “The Crisis.” His syndicated column appeared in several newspapers across the country, including the “New York Blade,” the “Washington Blade,” “Southern Voice,” and “Houston Voice.”

He delivered a landmark speech to 200,000 people at the Millennium March on Washington in 2000, and gave a stirring speech about the AIDS epidemic in front of 40,000 people in Chicago’s Soldier Field in July 2006. In 1997, President Clinton appointed Boykin to the U.S. presidential trade delegation to Zimbabwe, along with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, and Rodney E. Slater.

Today, Boykin makes his home in New York City.

We salute Keith Boykin for his considerable contributions to our community.

Nikky Finney

Finney, Nikky 2017

Nikky Finney was born on August 26, 1957. She is an award-winning American poet, respected academic, and social justice and cultural preservation advocate. In a 2011 interview with “Poets and Writers” magazine, Finney declared, “I’m trying to have a conversation about truth.” Finney has long encouraged other lesbian poets to write, publish, and read their work.

Born Lynn Carol Finney in Conway, South Carolina, she is one of three children, and the only daughter of Ernest A. Finney, Jr., a respected attorney and retired chief justice for the state of South Carolina. Ernest Finney served as head legal counsel for the Friendship 9, a group of Black junior college students arrested and charged when trying to desegregate McCrory’s lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her mother, Frances Davenport Finney, was an elementary school teacher. Both of Nikky Finney’s brothers are attorneys in South Carolina.

Nikky Finney was educated in both the Catholic and South Carolina public school systems during the era of desegregation. She was very close to her maternal grandmother, Beulah Lenorah Butler Davenport, and felt connected to the nearby South Carolina sea. Finney immersed herself in books and writing poetry, acquiring the nickname “Nikky” after poet Nikki Giovanni, who would later become a friend and mentor. Finney graduated from Sumter High School in 1975, and went on to attend Talladega College, an historically black college in Alabama, where she was mentored by renowned poet and essayist Dr. Gloria Wade Gayles.

After graduating in 1979, Finney turned to photography and documenting Black contributions to creativity and culture in the United States. She matriculated at Atlanta University, working in the African American Studies department, and joined the Pamoja Writing Collective community writing workshop. She also immersed herself in the poetry and visual arts of the Black Arts Movement. After abandoning graduate studies due to limited opportunities, Finney returned to working in photography in Talladega. She joined the staff at the National Black Women’s Health Project, and traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, for the United Nations conference, “End of the Decade of Women,” in 1985.

Finney’s first book of poems, “On Wings Made of Gauze,” was published by William Morrow in 1985. She relocated to Northern California, where she continued her work as a poet and became involved in progressive causes. From 1989-1990, Finney was a visiting writer in the English department at the University of Kentucky, and was eventually offered a permanent position on the faculty. She would remain there for more than two decades, becoming a Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor of English.

Her second book of poetry, “Rice,” was published in 1995 by Canadian publisher SisterVisions, and received a PEN American Open Book Award in 1997. Finney’s story cycle, “Heartwood,” geared toward literacy students, was published in 1998 by the University Press of Kentucky. She took a temporary leave from the University of Kentucky in 1999 to hold the Goode Chair in the Humanities at Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the American South.

Finney’s third book of poetry, “The World is Round,” was released in 2003, and was honored with the Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry. In 2007, she became interim director of the African American Studies and Research Program at the University of Kentucky. That same year, “The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South,” was published by the University of Georgia Press under the auspices of Cave Canem, an organization that fosters opportunities for African American poets. The collection, which was edited and introduced by Finney, highlighted the work of one hundred African American poets who are from or wrote about the South. From 2007-2009, Finney served as the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

“Head Off & Split,” Finney’s fourth book of poems, was published in 2011, and was honored that year as the winner of the National Book Award for Poetry. Her acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, touching on race, reading, and writing, was so extraordinary that host John Lithgow called it “the best acceptance speech for anything that I’ve ever heard in my life.” “Head Off & Split” was also selected as the 2015-2016 First Year Book by the University of Maryland, College Park, providing students the chance to discuss issues using a common text. The University of Maryland also commissioned her work, “The Battle of and for the Black Face Boy,” which, in 2015, became the first feature-length poem to be published in the “Oxford American.”

In addition to traveling, and writing for journals, magazines, and other publications, Finney holds the John H. Bennett, Jr., Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She returned to her beloved home state in 2013 after teaching creative writing at the University of Kentucky for more than twenty years. Finney wrote in an open letter to her readers, “The University of South Carolina, graciously, made me an offer I could not refuse.”

Finney is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a writing collective based in Lexington, Kentucky, and served on the faculty and is an honorary director of the Cave Canem Foundation, which she called “the major watering hole and air pocket for black poetry.”

We thank Nikky Finney for her impactful poetry, her lifelong commitment to teaching, and for her many contributions to our community.

Chris Dickerson

Dickerson, Chris 2017

Chris Dickerson was born on August 25, 1939. He is a former professional bodybuilder, model, and opera singer. Dickerson was the first African American AAU Mr. America, the oldest and first Black and openly gay winner of the IFBB Mr. Olympia contest, and one of only two bodybuilders to win both the Mr. Olympia and Masters Olympia competitions.

Henri Christophe Dickerson was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the youngest of triplets. His mother, Mahala Ashley Dickerson, was a lifelong friend of civil rights icon Rosa Parks, and was the first Black female attorney in Alabama, the first Black attorney in Alaska, the second Black woman admitted to the bar in Indiana, and the first African American president of the National Association of Women Lawyers.

When Dickerson was 13, the newly re-married Mahala moved the family to Indianapolis. As a teen, Dickerson immersed himself in acting, singing, musical theater, dance, and gymnastics. He attended a Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) school, graduating from Olney Friends School in Ohio in 1957. Following graduation, Dickerson attended the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he studied acting, drama, and music.

Dickerson became interested in bodybuilding after visiting a relative in California and seeing a photo of Bill Pearl, dubbed the “World’s Best-Built Man of the Century.” In 1963, he began training with Pearl, while working as an orderly at a Los Angles hospital. In October 1965, Dickerson entered his first competition, Mr. Long Beach, and came in third. He returned to the East Coast the following year, capturing twelve titles that included Mr. Eastern America, Junior Mr. USA, and Mr. New York State.

In the 1960s, Dickerson’s athletic ability and training in dance helped him to continually refine his physique and posing, and soon he was in demand as a physique model. In fact, in the seventies, Dickerson posed nude for photographer Jim French, and the photos were published by Colt Studios in an issue of “Olympus,” bringing him to the attention of the LGBTQ/SGL community. “The ideal physique is one with broad shoulders, a small, tapered waist, shapely and developed legs,” said Dickerson. “The neck, arms and calves should all measure the same or close to it. It is equally important to work on your posing in order to show off what development you have attained to your best advantage.”

In 1967, Dickerson won the Mr. California title, and began to set his sights on winning Mr. America. He placed sixth in his first attempt, then third in 1968, and a close second in 1969. Finally, in 1970, he won it all—becoming the first Black man to win Mr. America. That was followed by a whirlwind of travel, tours, TV appearances, and lectures. Over the next ten years, Dickerson continued to compete, with title wins in competitions including Pro Mr. America and Universe NABBA.

After placing fourth in the 1979 Mr. Olympia IFBB Lightweight competition, Dickerson took on the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Mr. Olympia title in 1980 and 1981. He came in second both times, but observers believed Dickerson should have beaten the more well-known Schwarzenegger, who was riding a wave of popularity from the “Conan the Barbarian” film. Dickerson captured additional titles, including the Grand Prix Louisiana IFBB and Grand Prix California IFBB, before making a third attempt at becoming Mr. Olympia.

In 1982, at age 43, Dickerson became the oldest, the first African American, and the first openly gay man to win Mr. Olympia, beating out fellow Americans Frank Zane and Casey Viator. Although the most lucrative endorsement contracts eluded him, Dickerson enjoyed his own line of gym apparel, and continued to travel and lecture about bodybuilding. In 1983, he was the first African American to grace the cover of “FLEX” magazine.

Dickerson co-hosted the physique competition at the 1990 Gay Games in Vancouver. Four years later, he retired after placing first in the 50+ category of the IFBB Masters Olympia. In 2000, he was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame. His career spanned more than 30 years and 50 titles.

Today, Dickerson lives in Florida, where he lectures, trains older clients, and occasionally sings opera.

We thank Chris Dickerson for his contributions to the world of professional bodybuilding, and for his support of our community.