A Note on the
Name the BSD



Why it's called what it's called - my little corner of the internet.


Students of rhetoric and communication know how important names are. What you call things helps shape their being, influences your first opinions of them, and aids in the mutual understanding of what something is, what it aims to be. I knew right away – the BSD wouldn’t be myname.com. Wasn’t gonna happen. The named informed the vision, and the vision informed the name.

Biologically, modern black swans derive from Australia, where the magnificent creatures, discovered three hundred years ago, no doubt threw them Europeans for a loop. Those who were native to New Zealand were hunted to extinction, and they were reintroduced with the neighboring fowl. Their beaks are red-orange, their feet grey, and their notorious black feathers contrast with their lighter plumage, giving each bird a coat full of depth and aura. Or at least that’s what I’ve garnered from the pictures.

'Black Swans' by Ofer Levy as captured in the Natural History Museum, DC

Etymologically, a black swan is a synonym for a rare and/or unanticipated happening. Likened to those mostly unfavorable spectacles, events, or meteoric rises, you are the Black Swan President if you won, shocked the world, but with proper hindsight – or in that case even while it was happening – shouldn’t have, def. shouldn’t have. 

And those who failed to anticipate it should have known better than to assume, and should have contingently accounted for it. Some liken a black swan event to something that can’t be explained away, or ever predicted, it falls on a continuum of shock, unknown, and rationalization. Technically, this term is applicable to a positive occurrence, but that is, ironically, the black swan description. 

A black-swan event is almost always considered adverse, the other, the unknown, likely something to fear. Sometimes after review, some things earn that connotation, other times, it does not. In the early days of man, predators came out at night, and daytime meant safety. This attribution makes a lot of sense, to liken trouble to darkness and security to light when a beast is hoping to make you their dinner. 

Yea. We didn't. This time.

But while origins do not change, the world does, and yet with both electricity and hindsight, this mainly socially constructed and dangerous dichotomy exists and persists today. Steeped into your subconscious. You think of the world in terms of good and evil. Where Odette and Odile are portrayed as opposite, even though they are danced by one. Where swans are white, and white is pure, and white swans are just normal. 

From a young age you’re taught contrast – the dichotomy of black and white. Ask a child to describe an angel, they’ll most likely wear all white. Ask for a description of a demon, death, or despair, and it’ll likely yield darkness. And this ridiculous ascription, this conflation of other and color, has moral consequences. 

Nothing is ever simply one thing, not everything that is improbable is negative...

It follows a similar pattern to the worst of the human condition, a malaise that results in inequity, violence, and oppression. It threatens our future. True contrast is an illusion, it is far more complex than that. Nothing is ever simply one thing, not everything improbable is negative, and the history we’re taught is is rarely the whole story.

Automatically linking the adverse to something nefarious because there is a lack of understanding, or an ill-conceived notion, or a antiquated and unchallenged convention, is abject ridiculousness. Because when that black swan eventually reveals itself, as the theory contends it will again, we can either meet it with respect and humility, fix it if needed so it doesn’t happen again, and learn from it. Or we can fight it blindly, fear it, and continue this contention with the other, without knowing whether it is even deserving of the name.  

We can keep on unlearnt and held captive to our biases. Or, we can choose to resist those judgmental tendencies, and wait until we better understand something, have examined it critically, factually, considered other’s interpretations, and within it’s contexts – before it’s marginalized. If it’s immoral – so be it. If it’s just uncomfortability with change or it’s different, then maybe not so fast. 

...You cannot build your ego on the ruins of anothers'.

The solution then, is to continue to examine, be curious, be non-judgemental, and to shift the conception of the other, by recognizing that everyone has a commonality, no matter how benign you may think it be, that links us, and lifts us all. I believe to be truly lifted, you must respect the individual, and that beautiful contradiction is why we need to be both separate and together, in a place where there can be an us and an I, simultaneously. You must be receptive to critique and still follow your compass, and you cannot build your ego on the ruins of anothers’.

The District, I hope, will be one of those places. When we’re here, we’re not so adverse, we’re patient and supportive together, but we still have our own voices. The term the district is taken from the Hunger Games Trilogy, a text so integral to my scholastic identity. We borrow the concept of a contentious home, a little siloed, but very much connected. 

...a little bit of self and collective identity...

Here, we’re full of agency. It’s where we examine our reality, and make and share things full of beauty, honesty, pain, reverence, adventure, humor, and love. Being a contributor, reader, visitor, hater (hey, so is life), of the BSD makes you part of this prolific experiment, and in doing so, aims to afford a little bit of self and collective identity to us that are all so different and still so alike.

So when I think of the name of this space, it unearths a host of feelings. It promotes a sense of place, and reminds me who I am. The good and the bad with it, the complexity of it all, it can never be escaped, it can only be built upon. 

The iconography of the black swan is tattooed on my chest, and all that goes with it can, of course, be covered-up, but never removed. The namesake of the district is the subject of a thesis bound under my name, and forever housed in the J. Murray Atkins Library in a damn paradise on the outskirts of Charlotte.  

The Black Swan District may not be a website forever, it’s a project that may fail and a domain that may expire, but the name already impacts my personhood. I hope it influences yours, and inspires you, as it does me, even if only a little. 


The Black Swan District is a name forged from the personal iconography of the black swan, influenced by it’s rhetorical, symbolic, and concrete meanings, and the district, borrowed from one of the most important texts to me, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy.

 To commensurate the name, the BSD must be a place where individuals can publish together, but have their own voice. Black swans in the district are creators, makers, and sharers of all things full of beauty, honesty, pain, reverence, adventure, humor, and love. I hope it inspires you as much as it does me.