Tamir Rice’s mother calls out artists using her son’s image without permission

She says seeing the last moments of her son's life used in such a cavalier way is hurtful

Samaria Rice (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Tamir Rice’s mother feels like her suffering is being compounded by the fact that her son’s high profile death has caused artists all over the globe to treat his name and image as a form of public property.

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Rice was 12-years-old in November 2014 when his fatal shooting by a Cleveland police officer was captured in a surveillance video. Last Thursday would have marked his 18th birthday, which prompted many on social media to create tributes in his honor.

According to Cleveland.com, his mother, Samaria Rice, says she lives in constant fear of running into another reminder of her son’s violent death because of how often he is referenced by creatives, filmmakers and social commentators.

“I’m not normal because of what America has done to my family,‘’ Rice said. “I’m just dealing with it. I can’t even have my son in peace. That’s what it feels like.”

For Rice, the work of artists like Shaun Leonardo, who is based in New York and whose planned exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art this summer was canceled, is a perfect example of an homage that’s left the grieving mother feeling more triggered than honored.

“This is so messed up,‘’ Rice said after finding out that Leonardo planned to include an image based on the surveillance video of her son’s death. “This is absurd to want to use this as art.‘’

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In response to another image of Michael Brown Jr., who was killed in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, Rice asked, “Don’t you think his mother would be heartbroken? His mother would be heartbroken if she knew this was going on. This is horrible. He [Leonardo] can’t possibly think this is art. This is the last image of somebody’s life. That is not art. That’s traumatizing. Why would you want to do that?”

After the cancellation of his show in Cleveland, Rice’s legal counsel sent the Afro-Latin artist a cease and desist letter, asking him to not to exhibit the drawing based on her son’s death and also remove it from his website.

Leonardo’s attorney released the following statement: “Shaun’s art presents important issues in nuanced and challenging ways. We are working with the Rice family attorneys to ensure that artistic expressions of newsworthy events can be undertaken.”

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