SURJ #YearWithoutTamir Action Kit
Below you will find an action toolkit created by SURJ to help you plan your action on for the #YearWithoutTamir national day of action. The family of Tamir Rice calls us to action, and, we are reminded that so many Black families mourn the deaths of their children to police brutality. Please share this toolkit with your local SURJ chapter. Thanks for showing up. Let us know if you have any feedback, comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Issue at Hand:
Tamir Rice was a twelve year-old boy. He had his first middle-school first crush. He loved to play basketball, draw, and to play outside.
On November 22nd, 2014, at 3:30pm, Tamir was shot and killed by Cleveland police. He was playing in a park near his house. Officers gave him no commands; they shot him within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene. The officers who killed Tamir have never been charged.
A grand jury is currently reviewing the case to determine if officers will be charged. The grand jury is being convened by Prosecutor Tim McGinty. McGinty has enormous control over the process, and can essentially decide whether or not to charge the officers. A few weeks ago, we learned that McGinty had cherry-picked "experts" who are biased in favor of police...these “experts” made public statements calling Tamir’s shooting reasonable.
Tamir Rice's family has lost confidence in Prosecutor McGinty. They are demanding a new special prosecutor, the release of all footage in the case, and the arrest and firing of the officers involved. They are concerned that the grand jury process is headed for a non-indictment of the officers: no justice.
The family is calling for a day of action on the anniversary of Tamir's death to put pressure on Prosecutor McGinty, asking him to step aside and appoint a special prosecutor.
The Problem is Structural, and Racism is Factor
- Prosecutors have enormous power over grand jury proceedings, which are notoriously non-transparent. Prosecutors work very closely with police, which presents a problem of impartiality when they are asked to indict officers. This problem is exacerbated by implicit and structural racial bias: it is very difficult for black victims and their families to get justice.
Cleveland’s police department was investigated by the Department of Justice, and found to have systemic issues with “unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force.” This is a problem in police forces across the country, and black and brown people are disproportionately victims of this police violence.
- Families with Black and Brown children begin to talk to their kids about structural racism, police encounters and police violence at young ages, this is not a choice but rather a matter of survival. As White families these conversations often do not occur until our children are much older because we have the privilege of safety for our children as they move through the world especially when encountering police. Many White families are making a conscious decision to have conversations about police encounters and violence towards black and brown bodies, as well as structural racism, with our own children starting at a young age and continuing the conversation in age appropriate ways as they get older. Here are a variety of voices sharing the ways they have chosen to do this as White parents:
Here is a must read piece from Aya de Leon, a Black mom, about how to develop leaders by using age appropriate language.
SURJ chapters and members should choose an action that feels appropriate for their region and relationships. Tamir Rice’s family has asked for actions to occur at 3:30pm EST, the exact time Tamir was shot by Cleveland police.
We’re suggesting the following framework to get you started:
- Gather at 3:00pm EST at a local playground, one that you would take your kids to and that is in your home community.
- Bring signs demanding justice for Tamir Rice, and asking Prosecutor McGinty to step down.
- Without disrupting the play of children, hold a public and visible discussion about Tamir Rice’s murder, and the systemic racism and police violence targeting black children. Pass out fliers and have conversations with the parents who happen to be at the playground.
- Take a good photo of your group with the playground and clearly visible messaging (see below). On your sign, you should use the hashtag #YearWithoutTamir.
- At 3:30pm EST, observe a moment of silence for Tamir Rice. Encourage bystanders to participate, and let the voices of children fill the silence.
- Ask everyone present, including families, to call prosecutor McGinty and ask him to step down. Use this number, which will connect you and provide a sample script: 1-216-600-1207
- Email a photo of your action to email@example.com, or tweet to @ShowUp4RJ. Include #YearWithoutTamir in your tweets.
How to Plan your Action:
- Touch base with your local Black Lives Matter organization or other efforts led by people of color in your community to ensure that your actions align with any plans they may have. You can look here to find out if actions are already planned near you. Note that not all actions will be listed here, so checking in locally is a good idea.
- Engage White parents or youth in the planning of this action. This will help to engage families within your chapter/community to show up for actions and empower them to show up more for leadership in mobilizing other families of privilege. They can help to foster empathy within the community of families by speaking from a place of mutual understanding about the love we have for our children and the importance of creating safe spaces and structures of protection for children of color in particular.
- Pick a visible location, ideally a playground or play area. You may want to visit it in advance to ensure that there will be foot traffic and people to engage with.
NOTE: If you pick a playground, pick one where White kids play. Playgrounds, like housing and schools are segregated. You may want to have a follow up discussion about what that means and how to disrupt playgrounds as white spaces.
Gather materials like signs, banners, and fliers to share your message. Make sure your message is bold, short, and clear. Examples include:
- [Your City] Demands Justice for Tamir #YearWithoutTamir
- 1 Year Without Justice for Tamir
- White Families Demand Justice for Tamir #YearWithoutTamir.
- Prosecutor McGinty Must Resign #YearWithoutTamir.
Remember that the goal is to “call in” white people, particularly families, and move them to take action. Avoid images or language that could be frightening or disruptive to the young people on the playground. While we want to bring visibility to this terrible racist injustice, we know that white people will not be open to our message if they are feeling defensive of their children.
Give bystanders a chance to act. Write up the call-in number on one of your larger signs; it is 1-216-600-1207. Encourage bystanding families to make calls during the action. Have paper and pen available for adults to write letters to prosecutor McGinty’s office that you as a chapter will mail for them, having a sample letter can help to make this an easy ask. Bring blank signs for people to make their own, including kids. Have supplies for children and adults to make cards for Tamir’s family and community.
- Provide families opportunities for them to get involved in your local chapter! Remember, they join SURJ’s national mailing list by texting (502)-337-3643.
- Direct families to resources so that they can keep the conversation going:
- Raising Race Conscious Children
- We Need Diverse Books
- The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
- A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, Philippe Lardy
- Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit‐ Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford
- Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom by Virginia Hamilton
- One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams‐Garcia
- Be Boy Buzz by bell hooks
- Take great photos, and share them! We can amplify pressure on McGinty with potent images.
- Great photos include a group shot (including kids), with a clear playground location, and readable messaging.
- Email these photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @ShowUp4RJ, include #YearWithoutTamir in the tweet.
- Collect money for activists taking bold direct action in Cleveland on this date. You can donate online here.
Taking Action in Communities of Faith
Organizers on the ground in Cleveland have been working closely with faith leaders. On November 11th, a half-dozen faith leaders in Cleveland called a press conference to call for the removal of Tim McGinty from the case and the appointment of a special prosecutor. The participants included leaders from Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, New Mount Zion Baptist Church, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, University Circle United Methodist Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland.
The day of action is a great opportunity to move your congregation or faith community into action. You can participate by:
- Preaching about Tamir Rice the weekend of the 20-22nd. Here are some ideas for how to craft a sermon.
- Joining local actions, or planning your own.
- Using your collection this week to support the bail fund.
- Asking your community to make calls to McGinty’s office together before leaving services this week. Use this number: 1-216-600-1207
- Emailing your lists with an action alert asking them to call McGinty’s office.
- Checking out SURJ’s Faith Action ToolKit for more ways to bring racial justice into the work you’re doing.
SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills, and political analysis to act for change.
For more information please visit our website: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/
Thanks so much to everyone who contributed your time, energy, work and feedback to create this Action Kit. It would not have been possible without you!