Things That Matter

#BlackLivesMatter Is Trending In Colombia After Five Black Teens Were Killed While Playing On Their Street

Despite countrywide stay-at-home orders that are among the world’s most strict, and even cartel-enforced lockdowns, crime is on the rise across Colombia. The increase has been driven by massacre-style attacks on the country’s most vulnerable communities: Afro-Colombians and Indigenous groups.

The recent torture and murder of five black teens who had stepped outside to fly kites, has reignited the conversation on race and how the government can step up to make sure minority groups across the country can be better protected.

A group of Afro-Latino teens were found tortured and murdered in Cali, Colombia.

Five Black teenagers left their homes in a neighborhood in Cali, Colombia, to fly their kites and play on a recent August morning. The young friends, aged between 14 and 18, didn’t show up at home for lunch. By midday, their mothers were looking for them.

“The boys were found tortured, burned, with machete and bullet wounds,” said Erlendy Cuero, a social leader from Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city. “Right now, the people who live here are sad but also very scared.”

Community members recently led a protest denouncing racism and violence inflicted by the Colombian state, and demanding justice for the murdered teens and other Afro-Colombian people who’ve been killed.

The mother of one of the Cali victims said: “Because we’re vulnerable and black, lots of people think they can walk all over us and forget about what happened to our children. Don’t let it be forgotten.”

The brutal killings are a reminder to Colombians that ethnic minorities are the most affected by violence.

Credit: Luis Robayo / Getty Images

Colombia is a country that has grown accustom to violence, but the massacre of these Black teens has shocked the country as a whole. And it’s brought to light a very real issue of racism in the country and shown exactly which communities suffer the most: ethnic minorities.

The recent masacre has also illuminated cracks in the still fragile peace deal between the government and former-FARC rebels. Just days after the boys were found murdered, a grenade was thrown at the police station in Llano Verde. The attack injured 15 people and left one man dead.

“We can’t assure they’re related, but neither can we rule out that hypothesis,” said Jorge Iván Ospina, Cali’s mayor.

The communities that suffer the most from widespread violence, are the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities. They have little protection from the central government in Bogota. However, it appears that finally, Colombians are starting to realize that peace will never be possible without listening to those communities who are most affected by violence.

Massacres are on the rise across the country, despite countrywide stay-at-home orders.

Colombia has been under one of the world’s longest running lockdown orders thanks to the Coronavirus. However, the number of massacres carried out this year is record breaking. In 2020, there have been at least 43 massacres leaving at least 181 dead.

The majority of them are taking place in the country’s south-west, home to larger populations of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities. Although responsibility for the massacres remains unclear, the government is pointing fingers at drug cartels. Families of victims though disagree, saying that their loved ones had no involvement with the drug trade.

A frequent complaint in these areas is that there is no government presence, allowing elements of armed groups that did not accept the peace agreements made in 2016 by the previous government of Juan Manuel Santos to fight for control of territory. 

The massacres are at least bringing forth a conversation on race and vulnerable communities in the country.

From police brutality to government indifference, Black and Indigenous Colombians live very different lives from the rest of the country. They’re more often targeted for abuse by police, they’re more likely to fall victim to massacres, and the government affords them little in the way of official protections from discrimination.

The recent murder of the teens from Cali, is finally bringing the #BlackLivesMatter conversation to a country that has long denied the existence of racism within its borders.

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The Lead Investigator In Derek Chauvin Case Says He Heard George Floyd Incorrectly

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The Lead Investigator In Derek Chauvin Case Says He Heard George Floyd Incorrectly

Stephanie Keith / Getty

Updated April 7, 2021.

The opening statements of Derek Chauvin’s criminal trial took place in late March and revealed shocking details on the case of George Floyd. One of the biggest revelations came from the prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds rather than the commonly believed 8 minutes and 46 seconds. In addition to this, is the reveal that it was in fact a 911 dispatcher who witnessed George Floyd’s death last May.

Watching the incident through a nearby police camera, Jena Scurry was in fact the person who called the police on the police officer.

Jena Scurry is the dispatcher who first raised the alarm about Floyd’s death.

“You’re going to learn that there was a 911 dispatcher. Her name is Jena Scurry,” special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell stated during an opening statement on behalf of the state “There was a fixed police camera that was trained on this particular scene. She could see through the camera what was going on. You will learn that what she saw was so unusual and, for her, so disturbing that she did something that she had never done in her career.”

Watching what was happening, Scurry reportedly became so worried by what she saw Chauvin and the three other officers taking part in that she called Minneapolis Sgt. David Pleoger. Ultimately it was Pleoger who managed the officers involved in the murder

“My instincts were telling me something was wrong,” Scurry explained to prosecutors that took place during the trial at Hennepin County Courthouse this past Monday. “It was a gut instinct of the incident: Something is not going right. Whether it be they needed more assistance. Just something wasn’t right.”

Scurry testified that while she could not remember when she called police she was moved to take action after an uncomfortable “extended period of time.” 

At one point, the defense noted that it took some time for Scurry to call Chauvin’s sergeant. In fact, it took nearly 30 minutes from when the dispatcher received the first 911 call about Floyd. She also stated during her testimony that she became concerned when she saw the police vehicle “rocking bath and forth” while Floyd was inside.

Scurry was actually one of “at least three people who called for police intervention as she watched Chauvin kneel on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds during his May 25 arrest outside a downtown convenience store, according to Blackwell,” according to CNN.

On the eighth day of Chauvin’s criminal trial, the special agent who led investigation into George Floyd’s death changed his mind on what he thought he heard Floyd say while Chauvin was kneeling on his neck.

Senior Special Agent James Reyerson who led the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was shown a clip from Minneapolis Police body-camera footage of Floyd during his murder. In the clip, Floyd can be heard something while handcuffed, his stomach pressed to the ground.

“Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said, ‘I ate too many drugs?” Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Reyerson.

“Yes, it did,” Reyerson replied.

After, what CNN describes as “a short break,” the prosecution played an extended clip of the video for for Reyerson.

“Having heard it in context, are you able to tell what Mr. Floyd is saying there?” the prosecutoing attorney Matthew Frank asked.

“Yes, I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, ‘I ain’t do no drugs,” Reyerson replied.

Top-ranking police officials from the Minneapolis Police Department, including the city’s police chief, testified that Chauvin’s use of force against George Floyd was a violation of protocols.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, and Chauvin’s currently-retired former supervisor, Sgt. David Pleoger, testified against him this week during his murder trial for his murder of Floyd. Arradondo testified against Chauvin on Monday said that he “vehemently disagreed” with Chauvin’s use of force against Floyd on May 25, 2020.

“There’s an initial reasonableness in trying to get him under control in the first few seconds,” Arradondo told the jury. “But once there was no longer any resistance — and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless — to continue to apply that level of force to a person prone down, handcuffed behind their back … that in no way, shape, or form is part of our policy, is not part of our training, and is not part of our ethics and values.”

The prosecution team played bystander video of Floyd’s murder during the opening statement and accused Chauvin of violating the oath of his badge.

The prosecutor stated that he also betrayed his post when he refused to help Floyd when he pleaded “I can’t breathe.”

“We plan to prove to you that he’s anything other than innocent,” Blackwell said in his statement.

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Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

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Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

Courtesy of Apple

The gender disparity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs remains wide in Colombia. As of 2019, Colombian women hold 32.9 percent of all STEM jobs in the country.

Nicole Chapaval, the VP of education at Platzi, wants to get more women into STEM. As someone who found herself in tech, Chapaval understands what it takes for women to break into the industry.

Chapaval’s own passion for computer science started in her youth. Despite wanting her parents’ reservations about her career choice, she went to school to study software engineering.

“I learned how to code with Platzi. I was a student back in 2012 before I worked here,” she told mitú.

Platzi is a professional learning app targeting people ages 22 and older.

Photo courtesy of Apple

Instructors for the app are teaching livestream courses on programming, marketing, design, and business. The classes are available in English and Spanish.

Chapaval took an interest in content optimization practicing her coding on a personal blog while taking online courses. Starting out as a student advocate, the two founders of Platzi noticed her dedication and started to involve her more in the team.

As Platzi expanded, so did Chapaval’s job description.

Chapaval has been successful in her career. Yet, despite the success, she has seen the gender disparity firsthand. It has only further inspired Chavapal to work to get more women in their tech careers.

“One of my first jobs was in a company that was doing mobile applications and in this company there were 15 male developers and myself,” she says.

Wanting to engage with her male colleagues, Chapaval admitted to feeling weird when her enthusiasm was not reciprocated.

“I was always very extroverted and wanted to meet everyone [but] they didn’t want to talk with me,” she says.

Chapaval teaches 60 percent of computer sciences courses hoping to attract more women to the field.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“I think that representation is very important. So I try to be very vocal and very present with everything that we do in social media and in content creation,” she says.

Whether it be attending company livestreams or podcasts, it is imperative for Chapaval to have women witness others in the field to show the possibilities they can achieve.

Prideful, she also amplifies the achievements of other Latinas in STEM, like that of Diana Trujillo. Yet, she still expresses a need for more women to get managerial roles.

“I am very proud of Trujillo,” she says. “She’s from my hometown and she was in the NASA project that launched the Perseverance Rover. These kinds of things are great!”

Thirty-six percent of Platzi‘s more than 1 million students are women and it is growing.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“That’s very low,” she says, “but we doubled that percentage from 2018 so we still have a long way to go.”

A key step needed to attract more students is accessibility, both financially and in content. Platzi, Chapaval mentions, offers free programming courses that aim to be accessible to those with low internet connection in all parts of Colombia and Latin America.

It’s not just about what you are learning as an individual, but also as a team or a group,” she says. “That also adds to the working ecosystem of Latin America.”

Regardless of gender, age, or background, Chapaval believes “education is very important if we want to break these blockers.”

In fact, two crucial skills she believes everyone should know is programming and English. “I like to say that both skills have to do with communications; communication with machines and with other people in the world,” she says.

In a time when remote jobs are pertinent due to the pandemic, having communication skills is a valuable asset for STEM careers in any country.

“Programming should be a basic skill that schools teach as well because it’s not only [beneficial] to be a developer,” Chapaval says. “It helps you understand how to solve problems in a logical way.”

Chapaval is grateful for her personal growth in STEM and hopes that Platzi can help others grow.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“I hope [students] can create what they dream of with the coding skills that they can get with us and can show it to the world,” she says.

“Latin America is a lovely region and a lot is happening here,” she says. “I hope that if this community can get to know each other and create the next big companies and big solutions for problems that we have right now, I would [be] fulfilled.”

As the gender disparity in STEM slowly expands, Chapaval continues to vouch for women to speak up and push through in the field.

Proudly Chapaval says, “Latinas are very extroverted, and the tech and software engineering world needs more extroverted people [like us] to add to their ecosystem.”

The App Store featured Platzi for Women’s History Month.

Read: She Came As A Teen From Colombia With Only $300 To Her Name, Now She’s a Director For NASA

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