On the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer. He had been playing in a park with a pellet gun. When police arrived on the scene, they shot Rice almost instantaneously.

On Dec. 28, 2015, a grand jury decided not to indict the police officers involved.


Rice's death comes in the wake of other cases of police violence — from Michael Brown in Ferguson to Eric Garner in New York. And it's a reminder of a harsh reality: In 2015, black men made up only 6% of the population but constituted 40% of the unarmed men shot to death by police.

We asked Stacia Brown to share her reaction — "For Tamir, Who Was Stolen" — with Upworthy’s readers today.

A protester holds a photo of Tamir Rice in Washington, D.C., in December 2014. Photo by Jose Luis Magana/AP.

The first thing I am pocketing is your name. Tamir, like something uttered in prayer.

We will all be saying it so much in the days to come, it will sound like a chorus of hushes in a holy place, a sacrifice, not of praise but of sorrow. I'm drawing it close to me — the sound of it on my lips, now, before all our commentary turns you into a cause, foreign and distant.

I’ve become adept at this, arriving at the scene early, committing key details to memory. After I turned your name — Tamir — over on my tongue, I Googled it. It means tall or owner of dates or palm tree or wealthy.

Your father says you were, in fact, tall for your age.

You were also wealthy in the ways that wind up mattering: spirit, intellect, creativity. 12 years old and already embodying the meaning of your name.

I will need to remember this, and it won’t be hard. I'm sure you had heard of the boys and the girls before you, all gone before their time. I am sure that, by 12, you may’ve had some sense that cops aren't kind to black boys who are tall for their age.

I have a system for marking tragedies like yours.

I've taken to following your mothers on Twitter, checking your siblings’ Instagram accounts, listening to your fathers’ interviews, all for more insight into you. I sigh with strangers, cry with strangers, and try to conjure you as someone three-dimensional, someone whose breath I can imagine feeling on the back of my neck as you laugh raucously with friends, sitting behind me on a city bus.

You need to remain real for me, Tamir, because you were real and you were 12. And you had every right to reach adulthood, marveling that you made it.

We all marvel at where we wind up when we’re grown. We think:

I could’ve been pulled over by a cop while on a date with a guy who had a gun or weed in his glove compartment.

I could’ve been asleep in my living room as SWAT raided the wrong black family’s house (or the right one’s).

I could’ve been whiling away an afternoon in my yard or at a playground, like you were, when cops arrived, ready to shoot.

I could’ve made too little money to live in a safe community.

I could’ve lived in the “safest” community there is and still been black and still been murdered and still been blamed.

I could’ve made bad choices or had my good ones go unrewarded.

This could’ve gone so much worse.

Then we breathe deeply and honor the moment as it is: a better outcome, a sparing, a miracle.

We remember children and women and men like you most acutely in these moments, how maybe you were just minding your business, just daydreaming or playing pretend. Or maybe you were pleading to be seen as someone real.

Maybe your eyes begged: Before you unholster your weapon, look at the nubs of my fingernails.

See how I chew them down till they bleed, how the pads of my fingers puff around them so that it’s hard to pop the tab on a soda can?

Before you disengage the safety, look at scar on my left shin. That’s where I wiped out on my bike when I was 7 and tried not to cry because my boys were watching.

Before you rest your finger on the trigger, look at these waves in my hair. My uncle taught me how to brush along with the grain. Before you shoot, my daddy is around.

Before you shoot, know I make my mama laugh. I am real. It makes me proud to make my mama laugh. I am human. I failed science. I am real. I stole a candy bar once. I am human. I might’ve planned to shoot this BB gun at birds. Before you shot.

We will never know what you were thinking, if you had time to think. We’ll never know exactly how afraid you must’ve been.

You, specifically. Tamir E. Rice, 12-year-old boy who died the day after being shot by police at a playground in Cleveland. You, whose eyes in the first photo released to the public, are soft and kind and so age-appropriately childish, the kind of eyes that couldn’t have known what else to do with a toy gun than play with it.

We will never have the privilege of knowing you as anything other than teary anecdotes, than memories offered up to the court of public opinion as closing arguments.

But God help us if we ever stop imagining you, Tamir.

Have mercy on our souls if we stop trying to resurrect you with vivid, near-futile envisioning. I am touching my hand to the tenor of your name in my pocket. Tamir. I am thinking of you as taller still, as wealthy in the ways that should matter.

You are rich, and you are grown and, now, your eyes are more discerning. But there is still wonder in the glint of them as you marvel over where you’ve wound up.

You think: I could’ve been mistaken for menacing. I could’ve pulled my airsoft pistol in a moment of play, and police may’ve been present, poised to kill me. Wouldn’t that have been wild? Wouldn’t that have been my family’s worst horror?

You think, in your house made of crystalline air, your home in the Great By and By: Thank goodness I live in a world where things like that never happen.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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