DARREN KNOX 1985 — 2019

Darren Knox was born on October 26, 1985 in Cortez, Colorado. He spent his first year in Mesa Verde National Park and lived in Sequoia National Park; Page, Arizona; and Salt Lake City, Utah before graduating high school in Anchorage, Alaska. He lived in Montana, Oregon, California, and Illinois as a young adult, and settled in New Orleans in 2013 after attending BikeBike!, an international gathering for bicycle enthusiasts. On January 7, 2019, he passed away in the company of loved ones in his home in New Orleans. This memorial was written by some of his closest friends.

As we reflect on the simple elegance of Darren’s life, we find comfort in the memories we share of him. In many, he is naked in a body of water. It could be summer in Louisiana, the sky scattered with stars and silent flashes of lightning. It could be autumn in Lake Michigan or winter in Montana, warming in a hot spring surrounded by snow and people who thought to bring swimsuits. Darren never wore trunks or underwear, preferring to remain as unrestrained as the wild places he loved.

He reminded us that magic happens outside of our comfort zones. Darren was a talented and generous mechanic, a roller-skating fashion icon, and a loving, incisive queer babe. He loved Toyota trucks (or ‘Yotas, as he called them) and riding his bike with no hands. To those fortunate enough to grow close to him, he was unwaveringly dedicated. He was a remarkably gentle person who taught us just how genuine and brave a human can be.

Darren strived to counteract the effects of life under capitalism. Like a figure from an Ursula K. Le Guin novel, he challenged the traditional, and embraced egalitarian views on relationships. With an ever-critical eye, he questioned the norm of moving across the country for romance but not for platonic love. He valued his chosen queer family and forged connections based on affinity, equity, and decolonization.

Darren always stepped up to volunteer. He spent his time with projects like RUBARB Community Bike Shop, the Childcare Collective, and Congreso de Jornaleros. He lent his bike mechanic skills to participants in the annual NOLA to Angola ride and led workshops at BikeBike!, earning admirers who would argue over Darren as their top-secret boyfriend/mechanic. Without doubt, Darren was a dreamboat.

He was not possessive of his knowledge, despite making a living off of his labor. He would show up at your house to fix your truck, no matter if it was the fifth time that year. Beyond getting people rolling, he went one step further and taught others how to repair and maintain their own cars and bikes. Being a mechanic was about much more than turning wrenches for Darren, it was a way of serving his community.

Darren engaged in a bold critique of white supremacy. He quickly and consistently called attention to the need for anti-oppressive analysis in deliberate and radical spaces. His critique was clear: “Anti-oppression and social justice need to be key core values of these projects. Voices of women and POC need to be at the forefront of the planning process and white allies need to educate any who don’t understand institutional racism/sexism, the need for POC spaces and the need for horizontal structure in our projects.” These are critiques we need to carry forth and amplify. Not just for Darren, but for ourselves.

[pullquote]”The one good thing about dying is you learn how much people love you.”[/pullquote]

When Darren learned he had cancer, those of us closest to him couldn’t imagine we would lose him as quickly as we did. Unwilling to be defined by his illness, Darren continued to live his life with determination and a sense of adventure. He built himself a shop to work out of, and continued studying Spanish and automechanics. For as long as he was able, he offered rides and made dinner for his friends. In his last year, he travelled to Mexico City, Chicago, Alaska, and the Northwest. Each trip took a toll on his health, but it was a priority for him to spend time with his loved ones, especially the newborns.

Darren wasn’t one to impose on others, and because of this many remained unaware of the gravity of his condition. He encouraged his friends to live their lives and not plan around him.  As his last months filled with uncertainty, sleepless nights, and frequent visits to the emergency room, he pulled nearer to those he loved. Never demanding or entitled, Darren was grateful for the care he received. Lying in bed with one of his closest friends he mused, “The one good thing about dying is you learn how much people love you.”

In the wake of Darren’s passing, our personal and collective revelations of him have expanded who he was for us, becoming a means of continuing to learn about him and from him, to find answers to questions we won’t get to ask him. From our memories of Darren in New Orleans, Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, Missoula, and Anchorage, he seems the same person we all loved—tenderhearted, with boundless affection for life and community.

Darren’s grit and grace gave him the strength to return home from the hospital one final time.  He passed early the following morning, just a couple hours before dawn, held and surrounded by family and friends. He left us his legacy: the cherished relationships he built and nurtured throughout his life and the commitment to showing up for one another and our broken, beautiful world.

In loving and being loved by Darren through his hardest moments, we now offer that love to each other in his honor.

Top illustration: Erin K. Wilson; bottom illustration: Kiernan Dunn.

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