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Tamir Rice's mother speaks at KSU May 4 event

Posted at 10:42 AM, May 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 20:25:51-04

May 4 was a date burned in the minds of many around Northeast Ohio.

It has been 46 years since four Kent State University students were shot and killed on campus by the National Guard.

As it does every year, the university held its annual commemoration on Wednesday. But the choice for this year's keynote speaker stirred up controversy. 

According to university administration, the May 4 Task Force, a student organization on campus, decided to make this year’s theme “Black Lives Matter: Long Live the Memory of Kent State and Jackson State."

In line with that theme, the group asked Samaria Rice to give the keynote speech. Rice is the mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by Cleveland police in 2014.

“The May 4 Task Force has been talking all year about the significance of police violence to May 4 and of racial oppression to the histories of both the Kent State and Jackson State shootings,” said Alan “Tré” Dufner, president of the May 4 Task Force, according to a press released from the school. “And with our choice of Samaria Rice as keynote speaker, it was most appropriate to theme the commemoration around Black Lives Matter. It is my hope that attendees will gain a deeper perspective into the ways the lives of black people and protesters for justice are dismissed, degraded and destroyed. And I hope those in attendance will have a greater reverence for the lives we lose to police violence every day.”

Some people spoke out against the choice, saying the killing of the four Kent students and the death of Tamir Rice are nothing alike.

Tamir was holding an airsoft gun when he was shot and killed in 2014. The students killed at Kent State in 1970 were unarmed.

Others on social media praised the selection, calling Samaria Rice 'brave,' and saying that police violence and racial oppression are important topics that need to be discussed. 

Last week, Tamir's family reached a $6 million settlement with the City of Cleveland.

No criminal charges were filed against the officers involved in Tamir's death.