Contributed By: The 411 News
Gary met Samaria Rice and found that she is more than the name that has flashed in-and-out-of headlines since the shooting death, in November 2014, of her 12-year-old son Tamir by Cleveland police.
Just days before Thursday’s appearance at Indiana University Northwest, a Cuyahoga County Probate Court judge approved a $6 million settlement the city of Cleveland entered into with the Rice family.
The visit, sponsored by the Indiana University Northwest Office of Diversity, Equity & Multicultural Affairs was called “Two Years Without Tamir: A Conversation with Samaria Rice.” Her baby, the youngest of four, “was a mama’s boy, my gentle giant, and the glue in the family.”
A single parent, now looking after 3 children and a grandchild, she’s on her third round of lawyers, fighting the Cleveland Police Department, and seeking justice for Tamir.
Rice said the last two years have been the worst of her life and that “Tamir would be alive today if he were white.” She did not rail against the other race; her target was the system that didn’t protect her son and other Black Americans from excessive use-of-force by police.
That excessive use-of-force has been the natural by-product in a country that got its start by violent subjugation of Blacks under slavery, followed by Jim Crow, lynchings and up to the police murders we see today, said Bryan Bullock, an IUN associate professor in African-American Studies who preceded Rice.
IUN faculty member and associate professor Patricia Hicks explained the purpose of Rice’s visit, “We have to bring awareness to every system where Black people are being attacked, like this and even the prison-industrial complex where we see the mass incarceration of Black men. Police killings are analogous to lynchings. They show that people can do things to Black people without consequences.”
“Nothing will be done about it until the community wakes up and sees what factors help perpetuate violence against Blacks. That’s why we brought in this speaker to inform the community, northwest Indiana, and people participating in our programs on what is going on in the Black world.”
Rice said she was in a fog the first year of the tragedy. “I had changed lawyers twice in 6 months. I didn’t feel right; I didn’t have all the paperwork in my hands. They were not addressing my needs in what I wanted to do with the case.”
The fog ended, she said, “When I woke up and got the courage to replace the 2nd set of attorneys. The third set gave me clarification and I got the answers I needed. I was able to get a little bit stronger and understand the aspects of the case.”
Rice found other help from Rian Brown, a community organizer who helped her develop a support team.
“I’m still raising children; it’s hard for them to be normal. I have to be strong for those children so they can be normal. If they see mom break, they’ll break too,” Rice said.
The mother said her life’s path is set. “I won’t be quiet because now I have Tamir’s voice” and she has some goals to accomplish. She wants to meet with Atty. General Loretta Lynch and President Obama.
She wants the two officers fired who caused Tamir’s death. The Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney at that time was Timothy McGinty, who refused to bring charges against the two Cleveland officers. That decision was the main reason voters chose to remove him from office in this year’s primary election.
And she will work to bring more resources to Cleveland schools.