Things That Matter

Orlando Shooting Survivor Takes First Steps Since Shooting

Ahhhh Took my first Steps all by Myself!!!!!! SO HAPPY!!! #OrlandoStrong #AngelStrong #LoveIsLove

Posted by Angel Colon on Friday, August 12, 2016

Angel Colón was shot 6 times during the Orlando attack.

Just two months after the tragic shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., one of the survivors has finally started walking on his own. In a video posted to Facebook, Angel Colón takes eight steps in his kitchen, to a loving and welcoming embrace. Despite not being able to walk for two months after the attack, Colón was seen a few weeks ago at the annual Zumba Fitness Conference.

Colón also posted this emotional status to mark the two-month anniversary of the shooting.

Today marks 2 months of the shooting at Pulse Orlando. It was the worst night of my life and will never forget. The past…

Posted by Angel Colon on Friday, August 12, 2016

Way to go, Angel! You got this.

Yay!
Credit: Angel Colon / Facebook

Colón is one of the 53 people injured in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in the early morning hours of June 12. He was hugging a friend and saying his goodbyes at the end of the night as the attack began. The Zumba instructor was shot several times in the leg and hip before being dragged to safety by a police officer.


READ: He Survived The Shooting In Orlando And He Is Now Telling His Story

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Four Years Later And The Grief Of The Pulse Nightclub Shooting Is Still Raw

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Four Years Later And The Grief Of The Pulse Nightclub Shooting Is Still Raw

Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

On June 12, 2016, a terrorist entered Pulse Nightclub with an automatic rifle. The gunman killed 49 people as they danced and celebrated life with friends and family. Four years later, the community continues to mourn the tragic loss of life during Pride Month.

It has been four years since the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the pain is still there for many.

The attack was a devastating reminder of the brutality still plaguing the LGBTQ+ community. The global LGBTQ+ community collectively grieved over the shooting and the loss of life. It struck fear into the hearts of LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones. It has been four years and that pain and fear still exist as the community continues to find ways forward.

The immediate action from the LGBTQ+ community was to join the growing battle against gun violence in the U.S.

“I remember dancing. I remember Juan’s goofy laugh. Drew’s long, gangly arm around my should as he said, ‘I wish we said I love you more.’ I remember we accidentally wore matching outfits and before I knew it it was 2 a.m.,” Brandon Wolf, a Pulse survivor said to Congress in 2019. “I can remember cold water from the faucet, a plastic cup teetering on the edge of the sink. I remember gunshots. Confusion. The rancid stench of blood and smoke. I remember the hair standing up on the back of my neck; my heart pounding as I crouched on the bathroom floor. I remember the face of terror on the faces of those people trapped in there with me; a panicked sprint to an open door. And I swear I can still hear every one of the 110 rounds that man pumped into the club.”

Wolf continues by talking about the confusion and desperation after as he tried to find his friends. How he had to call Juan’s family to let them know that he was dead. He talks about seeing his two best friends in caskets as a final reminder of the horrible nightmare he was living. Wolf then takes aim at the public health epidemic of gun violence that is devastated the country.

The Pulse survivor further called out President Donald Trump for emboldening this hate in America. Rather than unite the country to go together, Wolf argues that Trump has allowed for this kind of hate to go unimpeded and the ready access to guns has made this hate deadly.

People are sharing their stories and heartbreak on social media remembering the shooting.

Pulse Nightclub was an institution in Orlando for the LGBTQ+ community. Famous drag queens like Cynthia Lee Fontaine and Ginger Minj who live in Orlando have performed there. They have spoken of their own experience of hearing the news and trying to find out if their friends are okay.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is calling for greater protection for LGBTQ+ people.

“Four years ago, as members of the LGBTQ+ community were gathered together for Latin Night at Pulse nightclub during Pride Month, a terrorist armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire,” reads a statement from Biden. “He killed 49 innocent people and injured many more — at the time, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman. And still today, it remains the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ+ community in American history.”

“The inaction of Republican lawmakers to address the scourge of gun violence in America is unacceptable,” Biden wrote. “As President, I will continue standing with you to build a more equal, more inclusive United States, where every member of the LGBTQ+ community is safe and respected.”

The Pulse shooting is a reminder every Pride Month of the battle the LGBTQ+ community still fights.

Hate took 49 people away from their friends and families. It was and continues to be a hard moment for the LGBTQ+ community, especially the Latino LGBTQ+ community.

Continue to rest easy, angels.

Your lives will never be forgotten. We love you. We miss you. We will continue to fight for a world safe and free fro LGBTQ+ people.

READ: Remembering The Victims Of The Orlando Shooting, Many Of Whom Were Latino

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Cyntoia Brown Will Be Released From Prison Next Week And Supporters Have Already Started A GoFundMe

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Cyntoia Brown Will Be Released From Prison Next Week And Supporters Have Already Started A GoFundMe

@chrisemdin

After spending half of her life behind bars, Cyntoia Brown will be released from prison on August 7.

The 31-year-old was sentenced to life in prison in 2004, when she was 16 years old, for killing a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex. At the time, she was a sex trafficking victim under a pimp named “Cut Throat.” While Brown was a minor, she was tried as an adult.

The case made national headlines last December when a Tennessee Supreme Court ruled she would have to serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

At the time, celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West, Lebron James, and Cara Delevingne, among others, expressed their outrage on social media, with some advocating for her release and others funding legal support.

“Something his (sic) horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life,” Rihanna captioned a post on Instagram in November 2017. 

Kardashian West, who shared the singer’s post on Twitter, added: “The system has failed. Its heartbreaking to see young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right.”

In January, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) granted her clemency following the mounting pressure.

At the time, Haslan called the sentence “too harsh,” especially considering the “extraordinary steps” Brown had “taken to rebuild her life” in prison.

Derri Smith, founder, and CEO of the nonprofit End Slavery Tennessee agreed.

“She is light years today, as a woman, different from the traumatized 16-year-old that she was,” he said in January, according to CNN. “She’s mentoring … troubled youth, working on her college degree, she is planning a nonprofit so she can help other young people.”

Brown earned her associate degree from Lipscomb University in 2015 and, as reported by The Tennessean, obtained a bachelor’s degree in the Tennessee Prison for Women in May. She’s also been working with the state’s juvenile justice system to help counsel young people at risk.

For many, Brown has been a “model inmate” throughout her incarceration. 

“I learned that my life was — and is — not over,” Brown said in a documentary, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” “I can create opportunities where I can actually help people.”

In 2004, a then-16-year-old Brown was living with a 24-year-old pimp named “Cut Throat,” a man who she said physically and emotionally abused her as well as forced her into sex work. According to court documents, on August 7 of that year, Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen brought Brown to his home and paid her $150 in exchange for sex. While at his residence, Brown said that Allen showed her multiple guns in a cabinet. At one point, she alleges that the man reached under his bed, seemingly grabbing a firearm. Believing he was going to kill her, Brown said she took a gun out of her purse and fatally shot Allen.

Brown long claimed the killing was self-defense. However, the prosecution argued that the motive was robbery since Brown took Allen’s wallet after she shot him. She was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery.

The convictions carried two concurrent life sentences and eight additional years.

According to Refinery29, during Brown’s original trial, she was not allowed to testify. As such, she was unable to present evidence of her traumatic childhood history, including her time under the care of the state Department of Children’s Services, and her neurodevelopmental disorder. 

For her supporters, Brown, a survivor of sexual and physical violence, has been doubly wronged, first by men who assaulted her and again by a state who locked her up in an adult women’s prison for more than a decade instead of protecting her. Many have taken to social media to express their joy over Brown’s impending freedom.

“15 years too long for self-defense the whole world is waiting on your release August 7th you will be free,” wrote one Twitter user. “Freeing #CyntoiaBrown is the Greatest thing I’ve heard all Year!!! She never should’ve been Locked up in the first place,” added another.

Additionally, Brown’s representatives are raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to ensure an adequate start to her new life upon her release.

At the time of writing, the so-called second chance fund has raised nearly $16,000.

As part of the terms of her commuted sentence, Brown, who will be freed on Wednesday, will have to report to a parole officer regularly for the next decade. She is also required to stay employed, participate in counseling and perform community service with at-risk youth.

“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people,” Brown said in a statement shortly after her sentence was commuted. “My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”

Read: 5 Things To Know About Latina Girls And The Sexual Abuse-To-Prison Pipeline

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