KENNESAW — Scores of students showed up to a vigil held to remember a Kennesaw State University freshman found shot to death earlier this month, and organizers reminded attendees to “spread love.”
More than 150 converged on the Legacy Gazebo near the social sciences building on KSU’s campus at 6:30 p.m. Monday, observing a moment of silence, holding tea lights and sharing their thoughts on what vigil organizers called the “senseless violence” that took the life of Oluwafemi Oyerinde.
“He was one of us. He was a brother. He was a son. He was a student. He was one of our community, full of dreams and aspirations, and in one moment of senseless violence, all that was sucked away,” Michael Aniagboso, the senior who organized the event, told attendees, adding that he had a message of hope to share. “Look around you. Look at your brothers, look at your sisters here. Everyone is here out of love. This is what the power of love is. This is what the power of compassion is.”
Oyerinde, 18, a freshman mechanical engineering major at KSU, was found shot to death at the Stadium Village apartment complex on Hidden Forest Court in Marietta just two miles from the college’s Kennesaw campus on Oct. 6.
Police have issued an arrest warrant for the man they believe committed the crime, Kashman Rael Thomas, of Marietta. Thomas is said to have wounded two others in the shooting and is still at large.
Attendees of the vigil shared their memories of Oyerinde. Many of the speakers didn’t know him personally, choosing instead to encourage the members of the crowd to treasure their family and friends and check in on each other.
Aniagboso said he scheduled the vigil because felt it was important to have the right narrative about Oyerinde in front of the public. Since there has been limited information from police, people have been left to gossip, he said.
“It could be open to anybody’s interpretation, saying it was drug-related or gang violence, and that was not who he was. He was a young boy from a Nigerian household,” Aniagboso, a fellow Nigerian said, grinning. “That statement alone comes with a lot of gravity. There’s a lot of expectation, and (you’re) raised in a very community-based culture.”
Oyerinde was born in the U.S. after his family moved from Nigeria.
Oyerinde was driven in pursuing his mechanical engineering degree and was preparing to join the Air Force upon graduation, Aniagboso, whose family was close with Oyerinde’s, said. Aniagboso said he partnered with the Student Government Association to put the night’s vigil together.
He said he was humbled that so many students, whether they knew Oyerinde or not, turned up to pay their respects.
Edmund Tella, a senior at KSU, had known Oyerinde for about a decade. Tella said he and the freshman attended the same church in Norcross, City of David, The Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Tella remembered Oyerinde as an “energetic, fun kid,” who loved to dance, and was excited to see where college would take him. He added that Oyerinde was “hard-faced, but soft-hearted,” going out of the way to take care of his friends and family.
“He loved his friends. His friends and his family were his world,” Tella said. “He loved to laugh and make other people laugh.”
Tella said he and Oyerinde grew up at church together, along with the rest of the church families. The church was a community, where everyone considered each other related, he said.
“Nobody is a stranger there,” Tella said. “So when you ask what hole does (his death) leave, what hole is left by the loss of a son (or) a child? And now imagine that occurring for hundreds of families simultaneously.”
Sam Brand, president of KSU’s Student Government Association, said the SGA was happy to be a part of such a moving event, but even happier that Aniagboso pushed for it to happen.
“I think this was beautifully done. I’m really grateful to Michael for coming out and speaking and really helping to run this,” Brand said. “It was just absolutely beautiful, and I can’t say how much I appreciate how many students came out.”
For Aniagboso, no event wasn’t an option. He said, no matter how many students were going to show, he wanted to give the community an opportunity to grieve and talk about what comes next. Oyerinde was a fellow Owl, after all, he said.
“I wanted it to be a community thing, where everyone felt like they were part of a living organism. It was just huge for me for everybody to say the words they had on their mind, whether they knew him or not,” Aniagboso said, gesturing to the crowd of students hugging, some with tears streaming down their faces. “This is what it’s about. It’s not about staying in what happened. It’s about what’s the solution, and moving forward.”
That solution, said Aniagboso, is “spread love.”
Students have organized another remembrance at the Stadium Village apartment complex for Tuesday at 7 p.m. Attendees may sign posters and bring gifts or flowers to the event, according to organizers.
Stadium Village apartments are located at 3044 Hidden Forest Ct, Marietta.