When I woke up today, I found out I died. Or maybe I had died yesterday. Or maybe it was on Saturday. Or maybe I have not stopped dying at all. Like I was dying day after day but never aware of it until now. When I woke up today, I opened Twitter. A dangerous move, it feels, in our current times. But I did it anyway. I thought I’d see more protesting. I thought I’d be able to share more tips on safety. I thought I might even cross paths with some viral TikTok. Maybe I’d get a laugh. Instead I was greeted with a face, name, and hashtag.
Oluwatoyin Salau was 19. An activist, a Black Woman. Now dead. She was only 19. Her body was found several days after her disappearance. I remember seeing tweets in passing about her missing. I hadn’t stopped to read them, to retweet them because I found them on minute 29 of my 30 minute lunch break at work. In some ways, I feel like I failed her--single handedly, solely me. It’s not like there’s a global system that oppresses Black people. It’s not like we have protests and riots because systematic oppression has festered too long.
I don’t know much about her. Just the way she died. Just that she spent her last days on this Earth trying to fight for a better world. She was only 19. When I was nineteen, I was sitting in the basement of the student center at my alma mater, listening to pop and punk and bands that I only knew because of my parents. I was writing essays. I was highlighting my printed off notes for midterms. I was confined into a bubble. I knew Black people were always disadvantaged. I knew we were lying in asphalt, bleeding into storm drains, missing, lied about, covered up, hidden. I knew it was happening but I wasn’t doing anything about it.
I wasn’t doing anything about it.
And what can I do for Oluwatoyin now? Can I reach into the soil that’s going to consume her? Can I tell her I’m sorry? Can I tell her that she was just a child--that someone else should’ve chosen that fight?
I used to think about having children. I dreamed of a two story house and my two kids, and three dogs. I thought about an office that was lined with bookshelves and filled with pages for my kids to consume. I’d have everything they would ever dream of, fantasy with main characters that looked like them. Poetry written by hands that creased like theirs. Romance that didn’t have gangs and violence.
I thought about giving them a world that loved them, that cherished them, that valued them. Now whenever I think of children I see my brother, I see Oluwatoyin. I see babies picking up megaphones, face masks, and signs. But I cannot stand to see any more babies dead.
We talk about George Floyd and Tamir Rice. But I haven’t heard Sandra Bland’s name cross a headline or fall from a mouth in a while. I see posts about Breonna Taylor, but the cops that killed her are still free. When we talk about Black Lives Matter, don’t forget Oluwatoyin. Don’t forget the Black trans lives that are lost too. Don’t forget the Black women. Don’t forget about us in the fight too.