Kent State would have allowed him to speak on campus. He just refused to back off the May 4th date for his speech and Taylor Hall location. They offered to move his venue, free of charge to another Hall but again, he wouldn't budge, threatening to sue. Once he found out Samaria Rice was scheduled to speak, somehow he lost interest and moved on.
By Marilyn Miller
Hundreds of people filled the Kent State Commons Wednesday to mark the 46th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, confrontation in which four students were killed by Ohio National Guardsmen.
The theme for the event, hosted by the May 4 Task Force, was “Black Lives Matter: Long Live the Memory of Kent State and Jackson State.”
KSU president Beverly Warren welcomed Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, as the keynote speaker. Rice’s son was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer in November 2014; the 12-year-old was playing with a pellet gun that had been mistaken for a real gun.
About 200 members of Black United Students sat on the ground in front of the stage facing the crowd in solidarity with Rice as she spoke. The selection of Rice as keynote speaker set off a stream of negative social media posts last week.
Shortly before Rice spoke, BUS President Chynna Baldwin condemned the uproar.
“Even though blacks escaped death on May 4, 1970, they did not escape death on May 14,1970 [Jackson State], February 26, 2012 [Trayvon Martin], Nov. 22, 2014 [Tamir Rice] … the average person doesn’t even recognize those dates, but can easily slander a woman, disregarding the death of her child and idolizing the people who took his life, the same people blacks have to deal with every day.”
Rice shared her story of the day of Tamir’s death. She said two of her children had asked to go to the park across the street to play that Saturday afternoon.
She was cooking lasagna for dinner when two neighbor children knocked on the door to tell her police had just shot her son.
“I was in denial. My 16-year-old zoomed by me and out of the house,” Rice said. “When I got there, I saw my son lying on the ground. I tried to get to him. I was told to calm down or I would be placed in the back of a cruiser.
“My 14-year-old daughter was already in the back of a cruiser and my 16-year-old was surrounded by police. It was the most horrific day in my life, sending two children out to play that day and only one coming home,” she said. “That’s a pain no mother or father should have to endure.”
Rice paid tribute to victims at Kent State and Jackson State College in Mississippi, where two students were killed and 12 were wounded when police opened fire at a group of protesters 10 days after the KSU shootings. She said both groups of students had the right to exercise their First Amendment rights and law enforcement again just knocked those rights down.
She said in her struggle for accountability for her son’s death she realized that relatives of those killed at Kent State and Jackson State are still trying to get justice for their children.
“National Guardsmen shooting into a crowd of unarmed students, America should be ashamed of that. America has a lot of cleaning up to do or America will collapse,” Rice said. “We need to change some laws so everyone can be safe. Law enforcement can’t keep using deadly force before assessing the situation.”
She called for blacks and whites to stand and unite to “set an example to the government that we’re not going to take it anymore and you cannot use deadly force as a first result. … It’s the only way change will occur,” Rice said. “Racism is a disease. You aren’t born with it. You are taught racism. We’re still looking for a cure for racism like we are looking for cures for other diseases.”
She described her son as a budding artist just learning to play the drums, someone who could swim in 12 feet of water and a normal 12-year-old who loved Clifford and Curious George cartoons.
She is establishing the Tamir Rice Foundation with a mentoring program, art program and scholarships for students to fulfill their dreams, saying “children are our future.”
About 10 people spoke before Rice, including Jennifer Schwartz of Cleveland, who talked about her cousin, 19-year-old Allison Krause, who was one of the four people who died at Kent.
Schwartz said Allison’s mother, Doris Krause, died in January after decades of profound grief and extensive legal battles in hers and her husband’s quest for truth.
“Allison’s death was an unnecessary death, a betrayal by a government meant to protect her. She was one of four students, none of them armed — only with their voices,” Schwartz said.
Allison’s mother struggled with why the government condemned her daughter and labeled her a radical student after finding gravel in her pocket, Schwartz said, adding that she often visits Allison’s grave with a pocket full of pebbles.
She said she welcomed Samaria Rice as the keynote speaker and said Allison would have welcomed her, too.
“I challenge those who say the precious lives in both incidents are not the same,” Schwartz said. “Black lives matter and citizens continue to be targeted simply on the basis of race.”