Community gathers to honor ‘Toyin’

Sadness, anger, and hope were among the emotions expressed as people of all races gathered at the Florida Capitol Wednesday evening to honor the life of Oluwatoyin Salau.

Salau who was a Black Lives Matter member and an active protester in Tallahassee, was found dead Saturday after being reported missing since June 6.

Salau, 19, was known for wanting to help others, even though she may have needed someone to help her. The Rev. Latrecia Edwards-Griffin gave a short anecdote about an encounter she had with Salau a few days before Salau went missing.

“What I recall the most about my conversation with Toyin that evening was the consistent plea from all that was inside her. She said, ‘Pastor, I just want to help somebody.’ I can hear her voice as she cries out, I am not a victim even though she had been victimized,” Edwards-Griffin said.

Salau was a caring and loving friend and she sparked the minds. Of those who knew her. Salau’s close friend Brooke Demps spoke about the friendship she had with her. “In a 25 minute car ride I learned more from her than I ever prepared myself for. If you knew Toyin, you knew she was a star in the making. I imagined seeing her name in headlines, but not like this,” Demps said while trying to keep herself from shedding tears.

Crowd putting their fist in the air to represent power. Photo by Ari Payne

Demps wanted to illustrate how good a person she knew her friend to be. “You have to understand how much of a light and beautiful person she really was. To be going through what she had been going through and still put others before herself,” Demps said.

Salau was a student at Tallahassee Community College and planned to transfer to Florida A&M when she was finished getting her associate’s degree. FAMU Student Government Association leader Jalen Guton did not know Salau but spoke passionately on behalf of FAMU’s SGA. “Toyin was going to be a FAMU student when she finished up TCC. While FAMU will do its part in aiding this movement and instilling the values of love and charity, I cannot print we are beyond reproach, because at FAMU she would’ve still been met with some of the same demons while fighting the oppressor,” Guton said.

To end his speech Guton shouted, “Say her name” repeatedly, as the crowd shouted the same back at him.

Salau was one of the people on the front lines, protesting for the Black Lives Matter movement. Congressman Al Lawson recalled when he first saw Salau being interviewed on the news at a protest. “I saw Toyin giving an interview in front of the police station and it was something about that interview that made me focus on what she was saying. I told my staff that I need to meet that young lady,” Lawson said. “I want this crowd tonight to never forget what Toyin did here in this community. She may have had a short life, but I can tell you she is with us and she is going to make a difference in this community.” Lawson concluded: “Don’t give up, don’t give in, we are going to win and change is going to come.”

Salau’s death has hit mainstream media. Actress Gabrielle Union posted a picture of Salau with the caption, “Toyin deserved so much more. She fought for so much more for all of us. I can’t shake it. I am her and she is me.”

Salau’s friends remember her as a strong young woman and they vow to continue her fight for change.