Samaria Rice, Tamir Rice’s mother, is slamming activist Tamika Mallory for being a “clout chaser” after her appearance alongside Lil Baby at Sunday night’s Grammys.
The singer delivered a live performance of “The Bigger Picture,” a song about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement that he released in June, amid mass protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Lil Baby was joined by Killer Mike, who rapped a Run the Jewels verse, and Mallory, who recited a poem from a podium, flanked by protester-performers:
“It’s a state of emergency; it’s been a hell of a year, hell for over 400 years,” Mallory said. “My people, it’s time we stand, it’s time we demand the freedom this land promises. President Biden, we demand justice, equity, policy, and everything else that freedom encompasses. To accomplish this, we don’t need allies, we need accomplices. It’s bigger than black and white. This is not a dream; this is our plight. Until freedom!”
Mallory was one of the original co-chairs of the Women’s March, but quietly stepped down with two other Women’s March leaders following allegations of anti-Semitism and organizational mismanagement in 2019. In the spring, Mallory spoke at rallies for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Rice shared a clip of Mallory’s Grammy performance on Facebook Monday morning, writing, “Look at this clout chaser did she lose something in this fight i don’t think so. That’s the problem they take us for a joke thats why we never have justice cause of shit like this.”
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In a follow-up post, which now appears to be deleted, Rice made it clear that her criticism extends beyond Mallory: “I’m tired of you black lives matters (Tamika Mallory and crew) bitches that’s riding these family back and yall ambulance chasing attorneys (Ben Crump)(Lee [Merritt]) too. y’all have fuck up our fight and yall can kiss my ass too...Make it make sense...You can’t working with the devil is easy to do. Fuck yall.”
“FUCK A GRAMMY WHEN MY SON IS DEAD,” Rice added in another post on her page.
Rice’s son Tamir was killed in 2014, at age 12, when a white Cleveland police officer fatally shot him. In the more than six years since, Rice has founded the Tamir Rice Foundation, which invests in youth community programs and advocates for police reform; three years ago she purchased the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center, a building in Cleveland dedicated to after-school mentoring, tutoring, and cultural education. She also travels to colleges to speak to students about police brutality.
She’s called her activism exhausting, and in 2019 she told Cleveland.com that she hasn’t slept through the night since her son died. She also never intended to become a spokesperson for a national movement, she said; she was more or less forced to. “Until then, I had been living a private life,” Rice said at the time. “I had seen things on CNN about the deaths of Eric Garner or Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin, and I would think, ‘Oh, that’s awful!’ … Then I look up, and I see me. And I have no words for that feeling.”
So Rice is perhaps understandably skeptical of some of the corporate infrastructure that has been built up around what is, at its core, an organic, grassroots movement. And she wouldn’t be the first to express this concern: Other Black Lives Matter supporters have spoken out to criticize the Black Lives Matter national and global network for its leadership and fundraising, alleging a power imbalance between the parent organization and its local chapters.
Divisions and disagreements are often quick to emerge within mass movements, even when there exists general solidarity. And when the message of a mass movement makes its way into culture, many find it difficult to agree on whether it’s positive. For example: Do the cultural products elevate the message or appropriate it, for capitalist gain? If your son was killed by a police officer when he was 12, the answers to such subtle questions may be more clear.