Julius Tate’s Family, Supporters Call for Justice and His Diploma
Starting Sept. 2, Julius Tate Jr.’s family and a community of supporters have marched, calling for justice in his case. The “March Against Columbus” ended on Thursday, Sept. 17 with a march and candlelight vigil, where Tate’s family once again honored him at the location where he was killed.
The conclusion to 16 days of marching, in honor of Tate’s 16 years of life, was an emotional one. Maryam, Tate’s younger sister who is now the same age he was when he was killed, spoke to a crowd of supporters about her brother’s case and what challenges her family has faced since his death.
She organized the march with help from family and community groups she’s a part of. She said, “Nothing like this has ever been done for him.”
She says a lawyer her family attained soon after Tate’s death attempted to control the narrative surrounding her brother’s death. She says her family was told not to say anything to media or to bring attention to the case without running it by him, and they went along with that.
Now in the midst of global protests after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, including in Columbus, there’s been a bigger push to make sure his name is known.
“I’m so sorry for their deaths, but what about what’s going on here? Wasn’t nobody making any noise for my brother,” she said. “My brother’s case had been swept under the rug. It had been mishandled.”
“People had just forgotten about him — I can’t even say they forgot about him because there was never a Julius Tate for them to know,” she said.
Tate’s family has also been fighting to get his high school diploma for over a year. After originally being promised his diploma from school officials at Columbus Scioto 6 – 12, Columbus Board of Education and Columbus City Schools officials have said issuing a diploma is out of their power.
There has been a lack of communication between officials and the family, Maryam says. And it is being alleged that the principal who was working with the family to get his diploma was harassed into leaving the school.
Now most recently, during a virtual school board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15, the family were again told by the school board that Tate did not meet the minimum credit requirements for graduation. Maryam and her family maintain that Tate had enough credits to pass a year early, the same year that he died.
When asked by a board member during that meeting if an honorary degree would be possible, Dr. John Stanford, deputy superintendent of CCS, mentioned that in the past, a student with a terminal illness was able to receive an “Acknowledgement of Attendance.”
Two Columbus School Board members recommended they make an effort to consider opportunities to acknowledge Tate’s participation at CCS. However, there was no commitment at the time by CCS Superintendent and CEO Dr. Talisa Dixon or School Board President Jennifer Adair on any specific action to be taken.
“We definitely honor the life of Julius Tate. He was murdered and he was taken from us too soon,” said Adair. “We will continue to work with the family and ensure the laws and regulations that we have to as a district, but want to ensure that we do honor the life of Julius Tate. Because he meant something. He means something.”
Maryam, who has had help from the organization CPD out of CCS throughout the summer to get her brother’s diploma, believes the reason the family cannot have his diploma is because of the media portrayal of her brother.
“The way that Julius died, and they portrayed him in the media as if he was some type of monster and he was heartless — you don’t give no heartless monster a diploma,” she said.
Maryam says her brother was innocent and that he was set up, and that the full story resulting in her brother’s death will come out soon. But she worries about the families whose loved ones were killed that maybe were not innocent.
“Whether you’re guilty or not, the police have no right to kill you. They are not judgment day, they are not God,” she said.
“What about all them people who weren’t deemed innocent? What about them people who were committing a crime at the time of their murder?” she continued. “I can just imagine their families now just sitting there in silence because…’There’s no way I can speak up and seek action and seek justice against a crime that was done.'”
The last 16 days aren’t the last action Maryam and her family plan to take to bring attention to her brother’s case. With the support of a community of activists and organizations, Maryam is happy to finally have people in her family’s corner who care.
It’s been draining and it’s been tiring, she says, but they now have help in applying pressure on officials to get justice for her brother.
“No matter how tired we are, how drained we are, at the same time it’s like…it also lifts a lot off of my shoulders,” she said. “Because I’m not only contributing to my brother but I’m contributing to the community. He was raised in Columbus, Ohio. People in Columbus deserve to know his story. People outside of Columbus, too.”