Kanyinsola Oye Finds Her Voice

The CPD out of CCS leader persuades the district to remove police officers from its school buildings.

Laura Arenschield
Kanyinsola Oye, one of the leaders CPD out of CCS

As a teenager—only 15 years old—Kanyinsola Oye watched as her country deported her uncle to Nigeria. She and her uncle were close (“he was my best friend, in a sense,” she says), and he’d lived in the United States for 30 years. His deportation felt like a deep violation of what she knew to be right. 

She remembers going to visit him in a detention center and how much weight he’d lost. “I couldn’t understand how someone who’d lived in America for so long, who’d paid more taxes than Donald Trump ever did, was being deported,” she says. “And I came to the realization that America was never built on justice.” 

It was a harsh but fair conclusion for a 15-year-old Black girl, and it has fueled her life ever since. Oye, now a student at Howard University, is one of the lead organizers behind CPD out of CCS, the student- and alumni-led group that last year protested, advocated for and ultimately successfully persuaded the Columbus City Schools to remove Columbus police officers from its school buildings. 

The 2018 Columbus Alternative High School graduate had organized protests that included gatherings outside the homes of members of the Columbus Board of Education. She’d helped enlist students and alumni to tell their own stories of the abuse and fear police brought into their lives. And when it was all over, the Board of Education voted to abolish the police from the schools. 

The work isn’t done, she says: They are monitoring the school board to hold its members accountable for that decision, and to hold them to it—the board could still vote to reinstate the police contract. 

And they have other goals, all built around improving conditions in the Columbus district for students, both by keeping police out and by advocating for desperately needed upgrades: air conditioning systems so the schools don’t have to close when it gets too hot, better access to updated textbooks, healthier meals. 

Still, for Oye, the board’s vote to remove police from schools was a moment that crystallized the idea that people could be moved to make change, if you steered them in the right direction.