Ask Codi: What does it mean to be a Jayhawk? (Column)

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Note: Ask Codi is a regular opinion feature that Codi Keith Charles writes for The Lawrence Times. Community Voices pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

Read previous editions of Ask Codi here.

Bernice King said the following Monday morning about her father, Martin Luther King Jr.:

“54 years ago today.
One week after my 5th birthday.
You were gone.
Assassinated for answering a call to conscience, for speaking truth to power, for being a drum major for justice who sought to rid the world of racism, militarism and poverty.
I miss you. Still. Always.”

As this town, institution and Jayhawks everywhere celebrate the wins of the men’s basketball team today, I hope we take the time to truly consider what it means to be a Jayhawk. Not exclusively in those performative ways like wearing crimson and blue and singing the school song. Not like sliding down the campanile hill with Mrs. E’s dining trays on those whitest of days. 

It can’t be defined by waiting in line for hours that turn into days for tickets to games; nor the dances, the parties, the late night movies in the residence hall lobbies, nor the all night video game conquests. 

And it is not defined by the group of people you resigned yourself to throughout your Jayhawk experience. 

Being a Jayhawk has to be about so much more than the ways we celebrate. It has to be about the way we live. 

I want to assert that being a Jayhawk is defined by the way we take care of the most vulnerable hawks among us when things are not great. When the world is burning. When we’re not winning or making the best decisions as an institution. And when the camera and spotlight isn’t on us.

I want to tell you that the world is not great for all Jayhawks, and I think you know that. 

Many Jayhawks are being hunted, their very living made illegal and being erased in front of our very eyes. Many beautiful and meaningful trajectories of queer and trans Jayhawks are being cut short. Imagine the brilliance we rob ourselves of. Imagine extending humanity to other hawks whose living may scare us a bit. Imagine us leveraging our resources to help Jayhawks live now. 

We have to move past the testimonials that have the Jayhawk flying high with injured wings. We have to tend to those wings before flight. Love on those wings. 
Heal them.
Protect them.
Nurture them.
As we ain’t flying far and high without them. 

Being a Jayhawk means …

We cause harm.
It means we go wayward from our best selves.
it means that we break (hard at times).
It means we make mistakes.
It means we struggle.
It means we hurt.
It means we battle depression.
It means we live with anxiety.
It means we sometimes have the most unhealthy thoughts.

It means that at times we are so very let down by our own actions, behaviors and decisions that we reside in the overwhelmed.
It means at times we feel lonely and hopeless.
It means at times we are made to feel isolated.
It means at times we are the cause of another Jayhawk’s isolation.
It means we sometimes let our friends down.
It means we sometimes let our siblings down.
It means we sometimes let our colleagues and community down.

It means that we are imperfect.
It means that we don’t always show up for the difficult community conversations.
It means that we scare easy of tough conversations.

And what does it mean for a Jayhawk to fly bravely and boldly for our own?  

There is anti-trans legislation in 39 of the 50 states, including this one we inhabit. Children are being denied the most basic human rights, and Jayhawks are watching. Jayhawks are voyeurs to the pain and death of trans people. 

Have you heard of the Haus of McCoy

Haus of McCoy is Lawrence’s first queer and trans community center. It centers the most vulnerable Jayhawks and community members, like Black trans women and femmes who are attempting to live within this community but truthfully are barely surviving it. We know if we place the most victimized and vulnerable trans people at the center of our work that we can fix issues for all of us, the reverse cannot be said, meaning if we focus simply on white queerness we can never fix the issues for Black and brown trans folks.

I know many of you are in town giving consent to nostalgia to lead you in a variety of directions which I’m sure is giving you great pleasure. And how about we make new memories? Go visit Haus of McCoy at 1046 New Hampshire St. Walk or drive by, and take pride in the fact that it is here, in your old and current community. Reckon with why it has not existed before in such a community riched in resources. 

I would like to raise a million dollars of unrestricted funds for Haus of McCoy by the end of this calendar year. I know some of you are shocked, thinking this amount isn’t feasible but that is a lie we tell. A million dollars live very comfortably within the Jayhawk community, and probably a million times over. With real effort and real care, this money can be raised in less than a month. This money could be given to us by one donor, and that one donor would still have enough resources to take care of their family, their kids’ families and those kid’s families as well. 

Jayhawks are doctors, politicians, Oscar winners, Olympic gold medal winners, Grammy winners, lawyers, pharmacists, paleontologists, awarded athletes, entrepreneurs, freedom seekers and freedom fighters. 

We can raise this money if we want to. 

The money will be used to build a staff, as I, a Black transfemme human, am the sole employee of Haus of McCoy, which if you’re good at tracking patterns this reality wouldn’t surprise you. 

Please consider giving significantly. Please consider sharing this article on your social media accounts today. Share it with your friend groups and loved ones. Do it for the kids, much like many other organizations you support. Bring this article up before the game starts, and commit to doing something before the game ends, regardless if the hawks win. 

Let’s celebrate honestly today, and with heart. And know there are many ways we win when we’re committed to the living of all Jayhawks — in particular, the ones who are living on the margins. 

Jayhawks must be honest and able to reckon with the world around us.
How else are we supposed to become global citizens and changemakers?
How are we going to change the world in real ways that allow space for more Jayhawks to thrive?

Your love of the Jayhawk must move beyond tradition. It must live in realtime. 

Dare to expand the beauty of the Jayhawk. 

– Codi Keith Charles (all pronouns) is the founder and executive director of Haus of McCoy, a queer and trans community center in Lawrence, Kansas. Moreover, Codi is a writer, facilitator, cultural critic and dreamer who critiques pop culture at the intersection of liberation. Codi enjoys trash TV, spending time with beautiful queer people and loving on their dog, Monét.

Find Codi on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Read more of Codi’s writing on Medium. Read more of Codi’s writing for the Times here.

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