GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A 13-year-old girl in Grand Rapids is going viral on social media for her emotional speech at a city commission meeting last month.
“She’s always had this passion for standing up for what she believes in,” the teen’s mom, J-Lin Tamminga, said.
Naira Tamminga, a student at City High Middle School, attended the special meeting on May 17 with two of her friends.
She recently joined a podcast with a New York-based investigative journalist, Nick Laparra, who shared her three-minute public comment on social media.
“I didn’t necessarily plan what I was going to say and when I got up there the only line I kept from what I originally wrote was my name, my age and where I lived and the rest was just speaking from the heart,” Naira Tamminga said.
It has since gained the attention of millions of people including prominent figures in the entertainment industry like Leslie Jones, DL Hughley, Viola Davis, Dan Levy and Jesse Williams.
“My main goal isn’t to become famous. It isn’t to go viral. It’s to reach others. I don’t want it to seem like my goal is to have hundreds of people watching the video… but overall if I can touch one heart, if one person’s opinion changes from what I was saying, that’s my main goal,” she said.
The teen spoke passionately about her frustration with what she believes is a lack of urgency and care from the commissioners saying in the video, “I don’t trust any of you. I don’t trust any of the police officers because you have shown time and time again that we cannot trust you. I am frustrated and frustrated can’t even begin how terrified I am to live here.”
The special meeting on May 17 was to discuss the 2023 city budget. Some spoke for and against the proposed budget during public comment which was later passed on May 25.
Commissioners adopted a $598 million budget which will include less funding for the Grand Rapids Police Department.
Under the plan, funding for GRPD will shrink from 38% to approximately 34% of the general fund.
“I would like to see the amount of money to GRPD go down to 32%. I would love to first of all recognize we can talk about numbers. We can talk about specific officers that should be arrested but we need to recognize there’s a problem and recognize that what happened to Patrick isn’t new. It’s not the first time this has occurred and it needs to stop,” Naira Tamminga said in an interview.
It’s not the first time the teen has used her voice to spark change in her community.
The 8th grader led a walkout at her school following Lyoya’s death. Her peers of 7th-12th graders joined her as they chanted and walked down the streets of Grand Rapids.
“As a community, we need to come together we need to show those in power that there’s a problem and we need it fixed,” she said. “It’s something that’s coming down to people’s lives and that’s something that we shouldn’t risk. We shouldn’t risk people being lost.”
She also expresses herself and advocates for change through poetry and dance. She’s been writing her poems for the last three years and has since made many public appearances most recently at the Festival of the Arts on Saturday.
The teen will start high school in the fall but has already begun to think about future careers. While she’s still weighing her options, she knows that overall she wants to make a difference and hopes other youth and adults can use their voices to make the world a safer place to live.
“Our mental health and who we are and what we are meant to do is so important,” she said. “I know so many kids who are younger than I am and I hope they can grow up in a world that’s better than the world I’m currently growing up in.”
To listen to the teen’s comment click here.