Samaria Rice called for "white privilege" Americans to get involved in the Black Lives Matter movement during her keynote address as part of the annual May 4 commemoration ceremony.
"It's almost like they got somewhat of a power, and if we can get to them, we can all come together — white privilege Americans, Black Lives Matter, all lives matter — we can come together and have some change across this nation. It's gonna take all of us to change this."
The May 4 Task Force invited Rice, the mother of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by Cleveland police in November of 2014, to speak as part of the commemoration, which was themed “Black Lives Matter: Long Live the Spirit of Kent and Jackson State.”
Rice said the four students shot and killed on May 4 were exercising their First Amendment rights.
“We're still wanting justice for these four babies that (were) killed,” Rice said. “America should be ashamed.”
Alan “Tré” Dufner, a junior philosophy major and president of the May 4 Task Force, said the ceremony went better than he ever could have imagined.
“In order to honor the lives of those that were lost at Kent State, you have to honor the lives which are lost due to police brutality, and the way that manifested itself today is through racial violence, such as the kind that happened to Tamir Rice and the kind that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is trying to fight.”
President Beverly Warren opened the ceremony, thanking Samaria Rice for coming to speak.
“This day, and the legacy of this day, the memory of this day, is so very important,” she said. “Our community has a solemn and enduring responsibility to honor the promising young lives we lost that day.”
Chynna Baldwin, a sophomore psychology major and newly elected president of Black United Students, said she enjoyed Rice’s speech.
“I thought it was really relevant; I thought it was really real,” said Baldwin, who also addressed the crowd during the ceremony. “It brought home the point that I was trying to make in my speech too.”
Baldwin stood on stage with the executive board of Black United Students, which passed out fliers with a smiling sketch of Tamir Rice and the words “Justice for Tamir Rice.”
“Understand that by us saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it’s not detaching ourselves from any other group,” she said. “It’s just highlighting the fact that our lives do matter. There’s been so many instances that our lives don’t matter, so it’s just us showing that we do.”
Rice said racism is still present in America, and the country needs “cleaning up.”
"Racism is a disease,” she said. “You are not born with racism. You were taught racism."
Four people spoke about the four victims of May 4: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder.
Jennifer Schwartz, Allison Krause’s cousin, said Krause was peacefully protesting on May 4, 1970.
“What had them shaking in their boots was not pebbles in the pocket of a college freshman with flowers in her hair,” she said. “She wielded words of truth.”
Krause’s mother, Doris, died in January.
Throughout the day, the rock on front campus has been repainted several times, with messages ranging from “Black Lives Matter,” “all lives matter” and “cops lives matter.”
“I just think it was kind of a petty move, I think, personally,” said Baldwin, the new BUS president. “Whenever we have a comment, this is how we respond: we paint rocks.”
Emily Mills is the editor of The Kent Stater. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.