Today would have been our co-founder Kelsey’s 34th birthday. We honor her legacy today and every day.
I just came across a story I wrote when I was 9, as part of a series written by elementary school students on ‘Brave Girls’. Most stories were about dragon-fighters, superwomen, and fairytale figures. Mine was about Kelsey. My nine-year-old self shared about the day Kelsey was born when “only Kelsey thought she would live” and her desire to “go to the public school even though it sometimes takes kids a while to get used to her”. Kelsey and I were just kids then, but her impact on the world was already beginning.
As I reread that story and reflect on her birthday, it is a powerful reminder of Kelsey’s life and legacy, and the way her legacy continues to shine through in the work we do in her name. Kelsey bravely defied systems that told her she couldn’t live, she wouldn’t belong, or she couldn’t try. And sometimes, when she was in a sarcastic mood, she even rested her head in her hand with just her middle finger raised as though to say to any deniers, “just try to stop me”.
As I think about Kelsey and the disabled leaders I’m fortunate to work with as colleagues and allies at The Kelsey, I’m reminded that it’s the unfortunate truth that living as a person with disabilities in the world today often requires immense bravery. It is brave to keep showing up for and offering contributions to a world that often denies your value and systemically limits your opportunities. That bravery has been on particular display over the last year as we’ve seen people with disabilities as powerful organizers moving our nation forward all while bearing some of the biggest burdens of the pandemic, economic downturns, and injustice. To create an impact as a community of leaders and allies, we have to both recognize that bravery, and work to build systems that don’t require people to be quite so brave all the time.
As we advance a disability-forward housing movement, we’ll continue to honor Kelsey’s bravery in our actions, our activism, and our ideas as we make Home for More possible.
Happy Birthday, Koos.