A speech made by Until Freedom founder Tamika Mallory during a performance at the Grammys on Sunday has set off yet another wave of public dissension from people who’ve lost loved ones in high-profile cases of police brutality.
Over the last year, Tamika Mallory and her group have been a notable presence leading protests, sit-ins and other public actions to call for justice in the case of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who police shot and killed in a botched raid in Louisville, Ky., last March. As evidence of her visibility, Mallory was even mentioned in Beyoncé’s Grammy award-winning song, “Black Parade.”
At the Grammys this weekend, Mallory delivered an impassioned message on the stage during a police brutality-themed performance by rapper Lil Baby.
Here’s what she said, as reported by CBS News New York:
“It’s a state of emergency. It’s been a hell of a year. Hell for over 400 years. My people, it’s time we stand. It’s time we demand the freedom that this land promises. President Biden, we demand justice, equity, policy and everything else that freedom encompasses, and to accomplish this, we don’t need allies. We need accomplices. It’s bigger than black and white. This is not a trend, this is our plight. Until freedom,”
In the aftermath of the performance, Samaria Rice—whose 12-year-old son Tamir was killed in 2014 when a white Cleveland cop opened fire on the young boy playing with a toy gun on a playground—went to Facebook to lambast Mallory, who she described as a clout chaser and part of BLM (Mallory represents Until Freedom).
“We will never have justice because of things like this,” Rice said, commenting on a video of Mallory’s Grammys appearance. She also described prominent attorneys Ben Crump, and S. Lee Merritt—who have frequently represented families of people killed by police violence—as “ambulance chasing.”
Neither Crump nor Merritt have commented on the critiques.
Mallory, whose Until Freedom group garnered criticism last year for hosting a so-called “BreonnaCon” to bring attention to the case of the young woman—complete with appearances from people like Yandy Smith and Porsha Williams, and in partnership with Breonna’s mother—has not answered the comments either.
But Shaun King, himself a very visible online personality who has spoken out about police brutality and faced many allegations of grifting, jumped on Facebook on Tuesday to share a lengthy post that appeared to be aimed at defending Mallory.
In his post, King claimed Rice was “angry at the world” because she was failed by systems and various governments that failed to provide justice for her child who was killed by the police.
“Ultimately, what I know is that a grieving mother like Samaria Rice has every right to be skeptical and hurt and suspicious and cynical,” King added. “She wasn’t born that way, but this evil and unrelentingly racist country forced her into that corner. It’s our job to gracefully and patiently help her find her way out.”
Whew, when those are the words of a visible “leader” in the already fractured and very diffuse movement to highlight the impact of police brutality on the lives of Black people, we can understand why the frontline personalities have attracted Rice’s frustration.
Speaking with Cleveland.com, Rice elaborated on her own Facebook comments, questioning why Mallory had transitioned from her role in the Women’s March to the movement against police brutality.
“Tamika Mallory was representing women. So how did you come over in our fight for police brutality?” she said. “I’ve never met Tamika Mallory. But I don’t like the way she’s moving. You’ve seen her over the years and now [her status] is elevated. They need to go get a life and stand back and get up out our fight.
“They’re making a mockery out of this fight. They’re making a mockery out of us. I’m trying to save your kids, your grandkids. So they can come after me all they want. I’m not the only one who feels this way,” she added.
It’s a sticky situation, aided by the fact that there are several groups and visible leaders now operating in this amorphous racial justice activism space, since as far back as Mike Brown’s death and the Ferguson uprising. There’s variable accountability across the many organizations—just last year, 10 BLM chapters accused the Black Lives Matter Global Network of a lack of transparency—and at the end of the day, there has been no real change in the problem of Black people and our children being brutalized and killed by police.
On Wednesday, Rice issued a joint statement with Lisa Simpson, the mother of 18-year-old Richard Risher, who was shot dead by LAPD officers in 2016.
“We don’t want or need y’all parading in the streets accumulating donations, platforms, movie deals, etc. off the deaths of our loved ones, while the families and communities are left broken,” reads the statement, which specifically calls out Mallory, King, Crump, Merritt, Melina Abdullah and BLMGN’s Patrisse Cullors.
The two mothers added a list of demands, including that Black Lives Matter LA and “all who have exploited Tamir Rice” provide them with financial assistance. Simpson said she and her children are facing homelessness, while Rice is seeking funds for the Tamir Rice Foundation.
You can send personal donations to the women through Cashapp to $SamariaRice and $LisaLee693