By Russell Roybal, Task Force Deputy Executive Director of External Relations
Last Friday I was out and about in Hell’s Kitchen. I arrived at a friend’s apartment and while there got a text message from one of my colleagues at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The text was a screen shot of a post on Facebook that William Brandon Lacy Campos was found dead. I immediately got online and checked Brandon’s page. There on the screen I read the terrible news and the posts of others who expressed disbelief and grief. I felt numb about it. This couldn’t be true. As the night went on I felt disconnected from reality. I was in shock. I even sent a text to Brandon’s phone hoping somehow what was posted wasn’t the case.
A short while later I met up with another friend, with whom I shared the news. He was speechless. We comforted each other, and had a drink in Brandon’s honor. The night became so surreal, as each of us grappled with what we did not want to believe.
Brandon was a regular participant at the Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference. I first met him there in Pittsburgh in 1998 when he was involved in the United States Students Association Queer Student Coalition. Brandon was also a graduate of the Task Force Youth Leadership Training Institute in 1999. Over the years Brandon played many roles at Creating Change – workshop presenter, panelist, provocateur, lover. His presence was always known. When we first met we bonded instantly and started a friendship that ended up feeling more like family than anything else. I grew to love him dearly.
One of my favorite memories of Brandon is from the conference when it was held in Miami Beach in 2003. There was a house ball during the conference. As the founder and house mother of the House of Tequila it was my duty to represent and the obligation of my children to walk. Brandon decided to walk in the original poetry/vogue new way category. He had never really walked in a ball before, but he was a gifted poet. He gave it his all, and read beautifully, but he forgot to vogue until the end, when he did his best Madonna impression. That was Brandon, jumping in with both feet, and in this case, arms and legs too! He didn’t win, but the judges didn’t chop him either, a significant accomplishment for someone new to the runway.
That memory, and many others I have replayed over and over in my head this last week have provided me some solace as I cope with my own grief around Brandon’s passing. While the details of his death are still uncertain, there are two things I know to be true. He has gone from this life too soon and he will be missed terribly by many, including me.
Rest in power and peace my daughter, my friend.
The Task Force will host a special gathering at Creating Change in Atlanta to honor Brandon’s life on January 25.