"I didn't ask to be a leader," Samaria Rice said, whose 12-year-old son Tamir was shot and killed by Cleveland police in 2014. "They made me a leader when they killed my son."
And she's taking that role seriously. Earlier this year, Rice helped lead the call to replace Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, who declined to bring criminal charges against the two police officers who shot her son.
Now, she's the face of a nationwide effort to look more closely at prosecutors in cities and counties across the country, 95% of whom are white and more than 70% of whom run unopposed. In the fight to curb police violence, prosecutors are uniquely positioned to hold officers accountable for their actions.
"Prosecutor McGinty didn't advocate for me and he covered up for the officers," Rice says in a new video for ColorofChange.org, an online civil rights organization that's leading a campaign to educate black voters about the power of district attorneys.
The effort is just the latest in a series of moves by advocates to call attention to down-ballot races in elections nationwide. African-American voters are reliably democratic and are expected to turn out in large numbers for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Millennial black voters have been notably skeptical of Clinton and of voting as a way to enact measurable, systemic change. But as police violence continues to motivate black millennials politically, the movement that's sprung up around ending it is grappling with where to go next.
In cities like Cleveland and Chicago, transforming the criminal justice system through affecting local elections has proven to be an important strategy.