Tributes are pouring in for activist Oluwatoyin Salau, who was sexually assaulted and murdered
Trigger warning: This article discusses sexual assault and murder.
Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, a 19-year-old Black woman and avid Black Lives Matter activist, was found dead in Tallahassee one week after she went missing. Since reports of Salau’s death came out, people have been highlighting the work she did as a young activist to fight for others’ lives, arguing that the world failed to protect her in return.
Tallahassee police found Salau’s body along with 75-year-old longtime AARP volunteer Victoria Sims on Saturday. Both their deaths are being investigated as homicides. On Monday, North Florida and South Georgia news station WCTV reported that Tallahassee police had arrested a suspect for the double murder, 49-year-old Aaron Glee Jr.
A video has been circulating on social media showing Salau speaking at a recent Black Lives Matter protest, pushing for visibility for Tony McDade, a Black trans man who was killed by Tallahassee police. In the video, she also spoke about being profiled daily saying, “I cannot take my fucking skin color off. I cannot mask this shit.”
Senior Beauty Editor at InStyle, Kayla Greaves, tweeted for justice for Salau writing, “Black women show up for everyone. But who is really out here protecting Black women?”
Gabrielle Union put out a similar message in an Instagram post tribute to Salau. “Who cares for little Black girls, Black teens, Black women? Toyin deserved so much more,” she wrote.” She also identified with Salau as a Black woman who was also assaulted at a young age. “I am her and she is me,” she wrote. “I am alive to talk about surviving my rape at 19. She is not.”
Others focused on Salau’s final tweets, pointing to the fact that her plea for help wasn’t met. She was last seen on June 6th, CNN reports, and went missing after tweeting about being sexually assaulted earlier that morning. Salau, who was home insecure at the time, explained what happened to her in a thread of tweets, writing “I was molested in Tallahassee, Florida by a black man this morning at 5:30 on Richview and Park Ave.” She explained that the man had offered her a ride to find someplace to sleep and to collect her belongings from a church where she had sought refuge days before.
“THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T LISTEN TO BLACK WOMEN,” one Twitter user wrote.
Some are also pointing to colorism, making sure to bring attention to the fact that Salau was a dark-skinned Black woman and didn’t experience the privilege that comes with lighter skin.
Amandla Stenberg shared a text post with words from video artist Alima Lee that reads, “When will you start caring about Black femmes beyond sexual consumption? Are you ready to admit your colorism against dark-skinned femmes is costing their lives?” She also shared information about The Loveland Foundation, which provides financial assistance to Black women and girls who are seeking therapy. “I keep having to remind myself to take a deep breath to help release the knot in my gut. Therapy helps a lot,” she wrote.
A Change.org petition was created to “bring attention to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee police department to do their job, and investigate this crime,” which has happened now—but that doesn’t mean the fight is over. A Black feminist and womanist organization, Sistah Circle Collective, tweeted to urge followers not to donate to a GoFundMe set up by Salau’s family, writing that she was allegedly being abused and had run away.
On Monday, the organization Justice For Black Girls created the Oluwatoyin Salau Freedom Fighters Fund in hopes of raising $2500 to give $250 grants to Black girl activists, like Salau, who seek housing, food, or other critical resources. As of Tuesday afternoon, the fund far exceeded its goal reaching $50,000 and the organization is no longer accepting donations, however it will be releasing applications for those in need of the grants Tuesday night. Follow the Instagram here for updates.
We’ll update this post as there’s more development on Oluwatoyin Salau’s story, and, no matter what, keep saying her name.
If you are a sexual assault survivor and need help, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to speak to a trained counselor. You can also chat online with a counselor here. Both services are available 24/7.