ioby was founded in 2008 to make it easier for local leaders to get the funding, knowledge, and resources needed to make positive change on a local level. For the past ten years we've worked alongside over 1,600 passionate, committed community leaders and have watched as small projects have turned into larger initiatives, and collaborations have become movements.

We want to take a look back at the past ten years, and tell some of our favorite stories of positive neighborhood change. We want to know: what kind of things can start with a conversation, a neighborhood meeting, a few dollars raised?

For the next ten months, we'll be checking in with leaders nationwide, past and present, and rolling these stories out. Thanks for reading!

[Samaria Rice, mother, activist and founder and CEO of the Tamir Rice Foundation, which is building the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Center in Cleveland's east side.]

8. Building Tamir's Legacy

Cleveland, OH, 2018-Present

Samaria Rice is a movement warrior. "Honestly, truthfully, I've been looking at the Black Panther movement period," she says. Their forceful cry for justice is a deep well from which she draws strength. "From Martin Luther King, Jr., to Malcolm X, to Huey P. Newton, and even further to people like Marcus Garvey. I believe in the people... If you stand up for what you believe in, things can change."

Like most Americans, she had been aware of the movement that emerged out of the murder of Trayvon Martin, demanding justice and dignity for Black lives. Still, she says, in many ways she lived in a bubble.

Then, in 2014, as he played with a toy outside the Cudell Recreation Center, her 12-year-old son Tamir was shot and killed by Cleveland Police.

It was a wrenching jolt, made worse still by what followed: a grand jury that declined to indict, fingers pointed but no one held responsible, and little if any change in the criminal justice system that allowed for this to happen in the first place.

"I was thrown into this position and Iand decided that I was not going to let my son die in vain. I never thought I would be an activist, but this is what God wanted from me, so I'm dealing with it in grace. I'm changing my pain into some power," Ms. Rice says. Like dozens of other families across the country who've endured the loss of a loved one to police violence, she filed a civil suit against the city in the absence of a criminal one. Then she moved to pick up the pieces, and weave together a lasting legacy for her son.

Nurturing youth, fighting for a legacy

Since Tamir's passing, Ms. Rice has been working tirelessly around building his legacy, centered on nurturing Cleveland’s youth.

“I was still raising my son, so I had a lot of nurturing and caring to do for him,” she says. “I just put all of my energy and the love that I have for my son into nurturing children. It kind of just poured out that way. I still have three children that I take care of. I'm still nurturing them even though they're in their teens, and two of them are grown. But you know, kids can never stop getting nurtured if you support them and love them unconditionally.”

So in early 2018, she purchased a building in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland to host the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Center.

“Honestly I was just looking for a building that could nurture children and feel almost homelike, and offer some after-school program,” Ms. Rice says. “I wanted to give back to my family, the Black Lives Matter movement, the women's rights movement, and my community, and develop a youth center for children from ten years old to nineteen.”

As she talks about the center, and about how the rooms will be filled with joy and learning, she returns again and again to care and nourishment. In contrast to the violent system she confronts, she speaks in a language steeped in love and community. 

“Our inner city children all over the world, they suffer from many things. I wanted to give them an outlet by offering programs that can one day make them successful, and know that we’re here to support them and guide them. Because one thing I notice is that when kids get out of school, they don’t have anything to do. That’s just not fair… We plant a positive seed and help them grow and develop skills.”

The Center will be filled with arts classes, music, theater, dancing, LGBTQ programming, homework help, mentoring, and field trips. All throughout, it will be filled with nourishment.

And just as she's sure about the centrality of care to the Tamir Rice Center’s mission, she's equally certain that she wants to center the beauty of blackness. "[The Center] needed to be around blackness and Afrocentricity, just to let our children, our black and brown children, know where we came from and what we can do,” she says. “How we can be powerful, and about our greatness, and how we have a lot of things on our side as well to be proud of and to be happy about."

“I know what Tamir was all about, and he was powerful, and he was magical,” Ms. Rice says. “I want them to know that it is power that lies within them.”


Power, inside and out

It isn’t just inner power that Ms. Rice thinks is important to acknowledge. She also wants to teach young people about how power is wielded in society, and who holds it. Understanding that, she says, is key to transformative change.

"I didn’t know about all this until my son was murdered. I had to learn the hard way,” she says. “I’m not going to deny another child.”

So she’s determined to usher the young people who walk through the Tamir Rice Center’s doors towards a world of power; to equip them with a keen understanding of politics and government, and set them up to make change in the world.

“I want to teach these children how to vote, where the city council comes from, how a prosecutor gets there,” she says. “I want to give them the truth on how we should be working together, supporting one another. Organizing medical health programs, or feeding the needy. Organizing things for the community.” In all of the programs that she’s dreamed up, there’s a focus on young people, but also a focus on community.

She has an abiding belief in the power of a community, and the Center is steeped in that ethos. It’s part of the reason she chose to crowdfund with ioby in 2018 to help fund construction of the Center.

“I think it’s important of [the community] to be involved with Tamir’s Center, and to see where their money is going, to see this beautiful project. I didn’t say I wasn’t going to use any grants, but [crowdfunding] is a way that the community can contribute.”

So in the Spring of 2018, with the help of her friend Amanda King—who had herself led an ioby project—she started a crowdfunding campaign to start construction of the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Center. They met with ioby’s staff and came up with a plan.

Donations poured in from across the Cleveland community and beyond. Neighbors, mothers, everyday people of who were moved by her story rallied together, and they raised far more than her original goal. Ultimately, she raised over $30,000. To Ms. Rice, that was a powerful affirmation of her work. “Well I felt like they trusted me and believed in me. They wanted to be a part of it. That feels good.”

On the last night of her crowdfunding campaign, Ms. Rice and her Cleveland community celebrated what should have been Tamir’s 16th birthday. Central to the moment, to the healing and community building that was so important for her, were the moms who came out to be with Ms. Rice and the community. Her friends and neighbors, but also Michael Brown’s mother and Oscar Grant’s mother–mothers who understood the anguish of the unthinkable.

“I was overwhelmed, overjoyed… I think that night we hit our campaign goal, if not exceeded it. It was wonderful. I was happy that people were out there to support and celebrate it.”

With the money in hand, the Center continues to make headway, aiming to open its doors to the young people of Cleveland in 2020. She’s come across obstacles, like when someone super glued the locks to the building. In the face of it all, she’s determined.

"Another one of my projects is a historical memorial for my son,” she says. “I still have to fight against the city of Cleveland. Because the space that I want to do it in is where my son was murdered; that's the city of Cleveland's property, so it's always a constant fight. It's always a constant fight.”

But Ms. Rice is a movement warrior. And from where she stands, there’s no turning back: “If you've got to go be up in their faces, go up in their office, request meetings to get some change, that's what you should do. It's not easy. But that's what you should do. Whatever I've got to do, I'm going to do it.”

Want to learn more about the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Center and support Ms. Rice's effort to build Tamir's legacy? Visit the Tamir Rice Foundation.

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