I recently perused a sidewalk mural in the liberal town of Ann Arbor, Michigan which was a template of the names of those black individuals who died at the hands of police over the past decade.
The chronology of names ending with the name of George Floyd who died from a police choke hold in Minneapolis this past May were vignettes that easily brought to mind newspaper headlines and television accounts into the circumstances of their killings.
Yet there was a name missing from the list reveals an underlying problem with the Black LIves Matter Movement, a movement which many consider too myopic in its approach to have any substantial effect on any lasting vestiges of systemic racism.
When Oluwatoyin Salau spoke at a Black Lives Matter Movement rally it was in front crowd of protestors they were oblivious to the larger crisis of homelessness that she was facing.
In this instance, the movement’s constricted vision did not allow it to shift its direction to the larger crisis of homeless that ultimately caused the death of one of its own.
"Toyin" as she was known lacked the empowerment needed to speak of her own plight among a crowd of individuals whose sole focus was that of police brutality. Instead she used her voice to speak on behalf of others. Her young powerful voice started each demonstration with a plea that each victim remembered. Her exact words: “I don’t want their lives gone in vain.” So she meticulously recalled their names at the start of each demonstration.
Yet on the mural of names circulating around the globe her name is absent. No she was not killed by police but by a larger issue whose statistics show claims more victims than police brutality. It affects all women and men of color and from every race.
The loss of her young life is evidence that homelessness a looming crisis. It is a microcosm of how massive numbers of young women who lack housing are preyed upon in our society. It is little wonder that a women in the BLM movement fell victim to crisis which has been largely obscured by the media.
Her death further reveals that the linear vision of a movement which fails to take into account more pressing crises such as young black women being sexually trafficked as a direct result of housing insecurity, aka homelessness.
Despite the fact that she had been vocal and visible as protester in the BLM, her death joins the thousands of people in America who die as a result of being unhoused. Many die in obscurity with only a scant number of voices able to fulfill her request that their lives not be “gone in vain.”
The attention and circumstances given to her death were short -lived with focus quickly returning to the BLM protests. The outrage over her death has faded from media leaving once again the crisis of homelessness an abandoned cause.
While the masses of protesting mobs fill the streets the statistics that as an unhoused young women will be being preyed upon and sexually assaulted continue to increase. Her death represents the countless number of young women who are victimized as a result of their living conditions.
Yet these startling facts and the atrocities of homelessness remain obscured in the light of the Black Lives Matter Movement whose myopic focus is on police brutality.
The Black Lives Matter movement is just one of many media driven movements that drains attention away from the more critical issue of homelessness. While BLM rehashes and and calls attention to the anachronism of racism, the very present day issues of homelessness goes wanting.
Homelessness has had virtually no victories over many past decades and still lags woefully behind in legal precedents which would allow this segment of the population relief. Despite the large number of hate crimes against homeless individuals, homeless individuals still remain an unprotected class.
While vestiges of racism remain in this country it certainly does not rise to the level of treatment and suffering endured by people who lack housing many of whom are black.
Through this movement the death of Toyin brought to light the inescapable reality of the plight of homelessness which is undoubtedly intertwined with every other crisis facing our world.
Though the Black Lives Matter movement did not say her name, her name must not be forgotten. In her brief years on earth, she spoke more truth into the homeless crisis than the decades of advocates before her. Not only must her name not be forgotten, but the transforming words she spoke about homelessness in her last plea for help must endure.
The words in her Twitter post must live on as a testament to the lives who are being lost through homelessness. Her simple statement of being in “Unjust Living Conditions” speaks volumes to the crisis that is before us now.
Countless Americans and citizens across the globe are dying and fighting to survive Unjust Living. We must take up the cause and fight for Toyin and all of the Toyins around the world. We must not let her name be “gone in vain.”
Separate from the Black Lives Matter Movement we must not only say her name and demand “Justice for Toyin” but sound the alarm that Unjust Living in our world must once and for all come to an end.