Black Boi Fly: Blake Brockington, #BlackOut, & Ways of Seeing
By Lauren G. Parker
for blakey blake
The filter was black and white. Blake was laying in his bed, obviously tired, but too excited to sleep. Through giggles and that brilliant smile, pressing his face against a pillow bashfully, he said, “I’m trying to go to bed, but everybody’s SO cute! Make it staaaaaawp!”
We sent each other videos like this back and forth all night via Snapchat during the first Tumblr #BlackOut.
Beforehand, we prepped.
“I’m gonna queue all your pics; do mine, too! Don’t let my selfies flop!”
“I got you!”
Each time either of us dropped new selfies, the other would receive a text something like: “Who gave you permission to look this good!?”
We were, like most others, excited about the Blackout. Started on Tumblr, it is a monthly event during which black Tumblr users post selfies using the hashtag #blackout and reblog each other all day.
Today marks the second Blackout, and Blake is no longer alive.
In the week since his passing, many of us who knew him in any capacity have had to turn away from social media. There’s the violence of people deliberately misgendering him, erasing who he was, the risk of ignorant comments about his suicide, identity, depression, about why a boi who seemed (& was) so smart, had so much potential, would end his life.
What annoyed me most, oddly, was seeing all the sudden reblogs of his pictures, the articles that celebrated him, how absent our celebration of him must have seemed to him when he was here. Some of it seemed to be false, toxic celebration that was intended just to capitalize on the moment, capture the tragic story so a viewer could clutch his or her pearls dramatically for an Academy Award then move forward. It’s like, to them, he was always a dead boi; he didn’t exist until he was dead. To those who knew him, however, each picture brings with it another realization of loss, a memory, its fleeting departure.
This sort of misrepresentation of him, even in death, is in a sense a way of killing him again and again, simply by refusing to see him as he wanted to be seen, as who he was.
Those who knew him know that Blake was brilliant, hilarious, had a beautiful smile, a healing spirit, and was someone who gave love as if he had never been hurt, as if his pain were not as paralyzing as it was.
None of this is about Tumblr, really, but about our ways of seeing. Who do you see? In what ways do you see them? How are we so comfortable with reblogging images of those who have passed on, been murdered, and pat ourselves on the back as having “spread the word,” but we cannot celebrate the living? How do we walk past hurt people daily, and not empathize until we see their story from afar online? Who do we erase to preserve toxic ideas of self, whose idea of self do we destruct in order to keep our own self-image in tact? What does it cost, and who pays for it?
This is just to say that the boi was beautiful before he was dead;
let’s start seeing each other.
Lauren G. Parker is a writer based in Richmond, Virginia
Consider donating to the “Remember Me For Me Or Not At All” fund in memory of and in service to Blake Brockington’s last wishes.