On Saturday (July 16), family and friends of the late Tamir Rice held a ceremony to reveal a butterfly memorial in Cleveland’s Cudell Park, where the pre-teen died nearly eight years ago. The Tamir Rice Foundation shared with its followers and supporters new plans to create a commemorative plaque to honor his life and celebrate his 20th birthday, which would have been on June 25. The memorial is also dedicated to Tamir’s sister, Tajai Rice, who was attacked by police after arriving at the shooting scene of her brother.
During the ribbon-cutting of the sacred space, Molly Nagin, VP of The Tamir Rice Foundation, told Cleveland 19, “The butterfly is an example of qualitative change that emerges after a series of quantitative changes made by the caterpillar. Ella Baker once referred to quantitative changes. She called it the spade work of organizing. The thankless minutiae, the community organizing that leads to the revolution of society.”
Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, also spoke during the emotional event and highlighted the importance of the memorial to her and her family.
“A broken system with no remorse for human life has been designed to destroy family lives,” she said. “We have to show unity [and] love so we can beat this beast that has oppressed our lives. My son is one of the most painful sacrifices for the world to endure. As his mother, the pain is so real. I will be in pain for the rest of my life.”
She continued, “With my pain, I was able to turn it into power by being Tamir’s voice and seeing the vision for our community by being in service to the people, especially our youth, me and my family struggled daily, but through the grace of God, we’re taking one day at a time and living the best that we can. This butterfly memorial is very important to me and my family. This is the last memory I have of my son playing in the park, as children should be able to play in parks in America.”
Rice was also commemorated with a plaque, which his mother helped design. The special piece features Tamir’s face on the front captioned with, “in loving memory of my baby boy Tamir Rice.”
At the age of 12, Rice was shot and killed by former Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann in November 2014 after he mistook Rice’s toy gun for a real one. Although Loehmann was not indicted for killing Rice, he has been allegedly exiled from law enforcement.
Senator Sherrod Brown honored Tamir Rice and family during the ceremony and recognized the recent killing of Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio as well.
“We grieve for all the lives lost to gun violence in our community, but there is particular pain when that death comes at the hands of the very people who were supposed to protect all of us,” Brown said during the ceremony. “Tamir Rice’s life mattered. Jayland Walker’s life mattered. All Black Lives Matter. And because of the work of this mother of Samaria rice, other sons and daughters will come to this place, and they will know that their lives matter too.”
Watch the full ceremony below.