Meet 18-Year-Old Community Organizer Joy Ayodele

Joy Ayodele of Santa Rosa has quickly become a prominent young leader in the local Black Lives Matter movement.

Joy Ayodele thought perhaps 50 people would show up to the June 1 protest she organized in memory of George Floyd, the black Minneapolis resident killed by a white police officer on May 25. Ayodele had never organized a demonstration before, though she was no stranger to activism. Her family, especially her mother, has always encouraged her to speak out against injustices.

That day, over 300 people joined Ayodele’s demonstration, sharing their outrage over racism and police brutality. “I will admit that the decision to organize the first one was very spontaneous,” she said. “I was trying to get the point across that although (some protests) had escalated in a violent way, they’re very important… They’re not violent people. They’re protesting because they’re angry.”

C. Born and raised in Santa Rosa, she graduated from Montgomery High School and is enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College. Floyd’s death stirred feelings of sadness and anxiety in Ayodele, but she says the protests have also awakened “overwhelming power, overwhelming joy and peace.”

“Truthfully, prior to (the protests), I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people of color in our community … just, like, coming out together,” she said. “I think we’re all kind of cautious in that way — to gather in that way, it’s a dangerous thing.”

“But I think that’s been really, really powerful and really beautiful.”