Things That Matter

#WeAreAMERICA: Hearing These People Talk About Latinos Will Warm Your Heart

Credit: We are mitú / YouTube

Non-Latinos Stand Up for Equality

It’s not just Latinos standing up for Latinos. People from other backgrounds have our backs too. There are so many reasons why people are willing to line up behind us to make some real change. Check out why Japanese, African-American and white youth are taking a stance to support us.

WATCH: #WeAreAmerica: Being Latino Means Being Proud of Two Cultures, Two Languages, and All These Things

Update: Bodycam Footage Of Texas Police Officers Leading A Black Man By A Rope Reveals They Knew It Would ‘Look Bad’

Things That Matter

Update: Bodycam Footage Of Texas Police Officers Leading A Black Man By A Rope Reveals They Knew It Would ‘Look Bad’

Two Gavelston, Texas police officers arrested 43-year-old Donald Neely on criminal trespassing 50 miles south-east of Houston. The officers are both white, while Neely is black, thus, a photograph of the two officers on horseback escorting Neely whose hands were tied with a rope, sparked public outrage. Civil Rights advocacy groups felt the picture echoed imagery from the Jim Crow era or Antebellum south. 

While the Gavelston police were quick to apologize and change their policies, protestors demanded the officers’ release their bodycam footage of the incident, which took place last August. 

Officers arrest Donald Neely on horseback.

In the absence of a police vehicle, two white officers led Neely by rope as they rode on horseback through the streets of Gavelston. Reports describe Neely as homeless and mentally ill after he was arrested for trespassing. When a photo of the incident began to circulate online, there was a national outcry with many believing it was needlessly degrading. 

The police department admitted the officers demonstrated “poor judgment” and would not arrest someone using this method again. 

Galveston’s police chief, Vernon Hale apologized calling the rope an, “unnecessary embarrassment.”

“We have immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique and will review all mounted training and procedures for more appropriate methods,” Hale said. “We understand the negative perception of this action and believe it is most appropriate to cease the use of this technique.”

Donald Neely’s family reacts on Facebook. 

Imagine that you have a relative who is homeless and mentally ill… Imagine that YOU are aware that living on the…

Posted by Christin Neely on Monday, August 5, 2019

Donald Neely’s sister Christin Neely took to Facebook after the photos when viral. She shared her family’s story. Donald is mentally ill and became transient because of it. His family is still remarkably supportive and regularly searches for him when he goes missing. Fully aware that his unfortunate circumstances make him a target of law enforcement, it was no less traumatizing to discover how her brother had been arrested by seeing the viral photos.

“Imagine that you have a relative who is homeless and mentally ill… Imagine searching the streets of a city for days looking for your loved one, to no avail,” Christin wrote. “Just imagine for one second being one of his children who have been fatherless for years and your father isn’t incarcerated or dead. With all of that in mind, now imagine scrolling fb and seeing said loved one being escorted to jail on foot by 2 officers on horses, hands cuffed behind his back with a rope attached. In 2019???? He was treated like an animal paraded through the streets.”

After Christin’s post and viral outrage ensued, Hale issued an apology to Donald

“First and foremost I must apologize to Mr. Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment. Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of arrest,” Hale said. 

Civil Rights groups and protestors demand more action. 

Civil Rights advocacy groups were not completely satisfied with the way the arrest was handled, even if they did appreciate the police’s quick apology. However, no disciplinary action was taken with the two officers. 

“If it was a white man, he wouldn’t have been treated that way,” Leon Phillips, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, told the New York Times. “I guarantee there’s nothing in their rules that you can put a leash on a guy while you ride down the street on a horse.”

Phillips said that he grew up during segregation and the image made him emotional because during that time “people said and did whatever they wanted to,” to black folk. For Phillips, this incident was all too similar to many he had witnessed before. 

“This is 2019 and not 1819,” James Douglas, the president of Houston’s NAACP, told the Houston Chronicle. “I am happy to know that Chief Vernon [Hale] issued an apology and indicated that the act showed poor judgment, but it also shows poor training. Even though the chief indicated that the technique would be discontinued he failed to address the lack of respect demonstrated by the officers in the episode.”

Protestors get Gavelston police to release bodycam footage.

Protestors and advocates successfully got the Gavelston police to release bodycam footage of the incident. The two officers, Amanda Smith and Patrick Brosch each made their footage public. 

In the video, Brosch asks Smith if she should go get her truck, but Smith feared their sergeant did not want the officers to separate. 

“This is gonna look really bad,” Brosch says laughing, as they start escorting Donald Neely with the rope. “This is gonna look so bad. I’m glad you’re not embarrassed, Mr. Neely.” 

Police Chief Hale says that the report and footage will be used to determine if further action must be taken.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Married A Gay Couple And It Was The Sweetest Thing

Fierce

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Married A Gay Couple And It Was The Sweetest Thing

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Catherine Pino and Ingrid Duran are not your typical Washington, D.C. bureaucrats. Not only are these powerful women two of the only Latinx women to own their own consulting firm, but they are definitely some of the only women to do so while being married to each other. Pino and Duran founded D&P Creative Strategies in 2004, long before the wave of acceptance of LGBTQ  swept the American consciousness. “We created our company in 2004 because we both really wanted to strengthen and advance the relationship between the LGBTQ and the Latino communities because at the time it was very different than it is today,” Duran said in an interview with Affinity magazine. “It was important for us to build a strong bridge between the two and change the narrative.”

Duran and Pino’s mission is one that doesn’t get enough attention within the Latinx community.

But according to Duran and Pino, they have methods to tackle that. Their consulting firm specifically aims to “[increase] the role of corporate, legislative and philanthropic efforts in addressing the concerns of Latinos, women, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities”. When they founded their firm, they made waves for deciding to take the D.C. political world head-on as an out lesbian couple. “If businesses don’t want to work with us because we’re gay, then we don’t want to work with them,” said Duran to LGBTQ Nation.

But back in 2004, although Duran and Pino were out-and-proud, they were not legally allowed to authenticate their bond in the United States because, at the time, same-sex marriage was illegal. But in 2015, that all changed. Their friend Justice Sonia Sotomayor invited them to hear the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case at the Supreme Court–the decision that ruled that marriage was a fundamental right of all Americans–including for gay couples. Four months later, they reunited with Justice Sotomayor. This time, however, the honorable judge was officiating their wedding.

Although they appear so comfortable with their identities now, navigating their identities as lesbian Latinas has not always an easy journey for Duran and Pino.

@LatinosLead / Twitter

When they were younger, their families’ struggled to come to terms with their daughters living a “non-traditional” lifestyle. Pino’s family, in particular, had trouble coming to terms with her sexuality. Raised in a conservative Catholic family, the idea of having a lesbian daughter was “unheard of,” according to Pino. 

As for Duran, while she thought her family would be understanding by virtue of them being progressive Chicano activists, their reaction was not as open-minded as she had hoped. Her mother believed that she had “done something wrong” in raising Duran and “struggled with what will people think”. “It was a journey for my mom to come around,” said Duran. “But when she did, she came full circle”. 

Perhaps their families’ ultimate changes-of-heart gave these women the confidence to believe the Latinx community was capable of change as well. These women are nothing but optimists about the future of America and the possibility of change. Speaking about the current administration’s policy towards Latinos, Pino doesn’t seem to be worried in the least. “Now is not the time to take the foot off the gas,” she said to LGBTQ nation. “I firmly believe in my heart that this too shall pass…We just both very much feel that we need to do as much as we can where we can and just keep working hard on these issues.”And working on the issues, they have. 

In 2015, the couple partnered with The Freedom to Marry initiative to create the campaign “Familia es Familia”. 

The campaign was “a national public education campaign” targeted towards the Latino community with the goal of normalizing the idea of marriage equality. According to the women, it is some of the work they are most proud of. As for what’s next, D&P Creative Strategies appears to be actively involved in campaigns promoting Digital Literacy, net neutrality, Latinx media representation, and supporting Latinx businesses. In this day and age of political grandstanding and empty promises, it’s inspiring to see Catherine Pino and Ingrid Duran walking the walk. 

Pino and Duran also use their platform to educate the Latinx community about issues that are close to their hearts. They created the production company “Brown Beauty Productions” as a means to “invite Latinos in the United States to tell their innovative and inspiring stories”. They have produced numerous documentaries for HBO regarding POC and LGBT issues like “The Latino List” “The Out List” and “The Trans List”. All of these happen to be projects providing information, insight, and a human angle to stories that aren’t always told in mainstream media. In other words, these ladies are working at changing the culture from every angle. They are an inspirational example to every queer Latinx person out there that the sky is the limit.