I’m in Colorado Springs on a case at Ft. Carson right now, but had to post this about something going on back home…
Former state Rep. Opio Toure, 53, died early this morning in the intensive care unit of St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, where he was being treated for a deteriorating lung condition.
A staunch opponent of the death penalty, Toure, a Democrat, was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1994 and served until 2006, when he was term-limited out of the election cycle.
“He really has given me strength for my journey many times over. Oftentimes I’m the voice in the wilderness, when he left it was just me standing around screaming,” said Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, and a fellow black member of the Legislature. “Oklahoma is a very unforgiving state, but he never stopped banging the gavel for justice. I miss my comrade.”
. . . “Opio was a great, great, great man,” said state Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City. “The same passion he had in the legislature he had in the street. He is known to be a freedom fighter and to speak for those who don’t have the platform to speak for themselves. He was a great mentor for me as a legislator but more importantly the need and the role of a community activist.”
This news is so incredibly sad. Opio’s life and example has been a great example for me and I know many others. He was not afraid to take on unpopular causes (like ending the death penalty) and was not afraid to vote against immoral but popular legislation (like the gay marriage ban). It was this example that convinced me to run for office as a Green/Independent in 2006 in his old seat (where he was term-limited out) to push the eventual democratic nominee to continue to fight for justice. And since that election, there has been a void left in the legislature with his absence. — His successor Anastasia Pittman is doing ok and is better than many, but she has also not shown the level of courage and fortitude that Opio did, and she straight up voted for the horribly racist anti-immigration law, which Opio would never have done.
But I don’t think his death should just be seen as a loss. From a place of hope and faith, I would have to agree with Sen. Connie Johnson who said in the article liked above …
“I know his family is one that bows to the will of God,” Johnson said. “I think in that regard, it will be a celebration because he lived, because he stood for what he stood for during his journey.”
Opio’s life should be celebrated and remembered, and his life should serve as an inspiration to us all to keep on keeping on, to fight and keep fighting for those who have no voice — for those on death row and those warehoused in the prison system. We’ve got to keep on fighting for the poor, to those who have been denied justice.