Things That Matter

A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

The people of San Francisco have a lot of heart. Yes, the wealthy thrive there, and the homeless community continues to grow, but somewhere in the middle is an empowering group of fighters for justice. They do not back down but instead make their voices heard loud and clear. It’s a tight-knit alliance that is responsible for forcing change on all fronts of authority. San Franciscans are also incredibly beautiful at honoring fallen residents. 

Almost five years after 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez was gunned down by police in San Francisco, artists are honoring him with a massive mural in the Mission District.

Credit: crashgrammy / Instagram

The mural was designed and directed in community and collaboration by Carla Elana Wojczuk with, Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (HOMEY), Justice4Amilcar Coalition, Mission community, Lucía González Ippolito, and assisted by Flavia Elisa Mora; Lead Muralists: Carla Elana Wojczuk, Lucía González Ippolito, Cristian Muńoz, Anna Lisa Escobedo, Adrianna Adams, Flavia Elisa Mora (painting and poetry), Pancho Pescador; lettering: Sonia G Molin. The mural is titled “Alto al Fuego en La Misón” and the most prominent subject on the mural is Perez-Lopez, the undocumented young man from Guatemala.

On Feb. 26, 2015, Perez-Lopez was fatally shot by the SFPD, who were in plainclothes in the Mission District. The officers reported that they “opened fire to protect themselves and others from a man who was acting erratically and was armed with a knife,” the SFGate reports. Witnesses told a different story. They said Perez-Lopez was running for his life, which is why he was shot in the back. 

The Perez-Lopez investigation went on for years, and in the end, the SFPD was never charged, but Police Chief Greg Suhr did resign from his post. However, it wasn’t just because of the pushback from the Perez-Lopez investigation but from multiple fatal shootings of unarmed people at the hands of the police. His parents eventually won a settlement from the SFPD

Aside from the artful depiction of Perez-Lopez, the mural also pays tribute to Black and brown people who have died as a result of police brutality as well as people who have died on the southern border.

Credit: amaya_papaya28 / Instagram

During the year in which he was killed, Perez-Lopez “was one of the 67 Latino people killed,” the Guardian reports. The publication adds that Perez-Lopez was also one of the 58 percent who was killed and unarmed. 

“‘Why didn’t you put in Jessica Williams?’ Or, ‘Why didn’t you put in this person?’ The truth of the matter is that we just didn’t have enough space,” Ippolito told the SFWeekly. “And I wish we could include a lot more.”

Ippolito said she and the rest of the mural team were confronted with the fact they didn’t have enough space to put every person that lost their life because of the SFPD. The mural is already one of the largest murals “to be painted in the Latino Cultural Corridor in a decade,” according to the local publication. 

“That was the hardest part,” Anna Lisa Escobedo, another artist on this project, said to SF Weekly. “From the community, a lot of people were saying, ‘We are missing this person, this person, this person.’ We could do five more murals and focus on people who had the same circumstances, and that is sad.”

This isn’t the first artwork that has honored Perez-Lopez.

Credit: msmichellemeow / Instagram

His painted portrait was seen throughout the streets of San Francisco when residents demanded justice in his death. A couple of months after he was killed, artist YESCKA painted a mural that included Perez-Lopez. The mural was painted on the sidewall of the gallery Red Poppy Art House, which is located just blocks two from where Perez-Lopez was shot and killed. 

The mural by Ippolito is pretty remarkable because of its use of bright colors, and the inclusion of Mexican motifs, both the Guatemalan and San Francisco landscape, and Perez-Lopez in his signature Giants baseball cap. But the mural is also representative of an altar of sorts. Perez-Lopez is pictured inside an altar, and the rest of the people that are honored in the painting are seen on prayer candles. 

The other deceased individuals on the mural include Roxana Hernandez, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, and Oscar and Valeria Martinez, who died either on the southern border or in ICE custody. 

Credit: cialuart / Instagram

This mural is a perfect addition to the many outstanding paintings that the city of San Francisco has to offer. 

One of my favorite things to do when I am back in the Mission is to go on a walking tour to gaze at the stunning murals that depict the people of San Francisco, but also the history of our community.  

READ: One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75

A Colombian Orphan Was Adopted By His Host Family And The Video Will Tug At Your Heart Strings

Things That Matter

A Colombian Orphan Was Adopted By His Host Family And The Video Will Tug At Your Heart Strings

Amanda Thiessen Barkey / Facebook

Sebastian is a young boy who was growing up in Colombia with no biological relatives. A program called Kidsave’s Summer Miracles connected Sebastian with the Barkey family for a summer. During that time, the family fell in love with Sebastian and they decided to secretly adopt him after the program ended and he flew back to Colombia.

The Barkey family fell in love with Sebastian after hosting him for a summer so they decided to adopt him.

Orphan Reunited With Family

After spending summer with the Barkey family in the U.S, Colombian orphan Sebastian has become a part of the family…👨‍👩‍👦

Posted by UNILAD on Thursday, January 30, 2020

The adoption was a true family affair. All of the Barkey children and their parents boarded a flight to Colombia to collect the newest member of their family. The reunion was caught on camera and it is a sweet and honest representation of modern families.

The moment Sebastian sees the Barkey family is an emotional experience for everyone in the room.

Credit: UNILAD / Facebook

Sebastian is walked through the hallways of the adoption agency and led into a room with the family he has grown to love. He is immediately surrounded by the Barkey family who smothers him in hugs. The feeling of excitement and love is palpable from the video.

Sebastian even signed the adoption papers using his new last name: Barkey.

Credit: UNILAD / Facebook

Congratulations, Sebastian. And well done, Barkey family. What a touching and sweet moment captured on camera.

READ: In The Middle Of National Adoption Awareness Month, This Movie Is Making A Statement

Brazil President Bolsonaro Fires Secretary Of Culture After He Paraphrased A Nazi Speech

Things That Matter

Brazil President Bolsonaro Fires Secretary Of Culture After He Paraphrased A Nazi Speech

@phpacha / @noblecavalcante / Twitter

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro fired his Secretary of Culture after he published a video that paraphrased a well-known Nazi speech at Adolf Hitler’s favorite opera. Former Secretary of Culture Roberto Alvim’s posted the video to his Twitter account Thursday evening and the overnight public outcry resulted in his firing the following day. Even the setting of the video bore so much resemblance to Nazi Germany propaganda minister Joseph Goebbel’s own desk, both with framed photographs of their elected leaders in the background. Alvim played music from the Wagner opera, Hitler’s favorite opera, in the background of his paraphrased speech from the Nazi leader’s propaganda leader.

At first, Alvim tried to chock up the viral outcry as leftist sensitivities. Eventually, he admitted that he asked his aides to Google speeches on “nationalism and art,” which inevitably led to the infamous speech by Goebbel. 

Both Joseph Goebbel and Roberto Alvim said that their country’s art will be “heroic” and “national” or “it will be nothing.”

CREDIT: @PHPACHA / TWITTER

Goebbel delivered his speech in 1933, the same year Nazis seized control of Germany, as an impassioned invitation for artists to join the nationalist movement. Goebbel was intensely anti-Semitic and eventually rose in ranks to become Hitler’s second-hand man. Hitler’s will left Goebbels as the new Chancellor of Germany, for which Goebbels accepted for just one day. The next day, Goebbels and his wife poisoned their six children with cyanide and committed suicide. Twelve years earlier, at the start of the Nazi regime, Goebbels became known for his speech that would but unwittingly plagiarized nearly a century later by Alvim. 

“German art of the next decade will be heroic, will be wildly romantic, will be objective and free of sentimentality, will be national with great pathos and equally imperative and binding, or else it will be nothing,” Goebbels became known to say.

“Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and it will be national… and imperative because it will be rooted in the urgent aspirations of our people, or it will be nothing,” Alvim similarly said in an address meant to announce a $4.8 million investment in Brazil’s national arts program.

Several top officials suspected that Alvim “may not be of sound mind,” but others disagree.

CREDIT: @CLUPPO / TWITTER

The speaker of the House called for Alvim’s removal from office while the Supreme Court’s highest office said that his speech must be “repudiated with vehemence.” Meanwhile, Olavo de Carvalho, a radical right YouTuber (think the Stephen Miller to Donald Trump), suspected that “it may be too early to judge, but Roberto Alvim may not be of sound mind. We’ll see,” in a Facebook post. Carvalho has since landed on a conspiracy theory that Alvim had a secretly liberal employee that sabotaged his reputation by paraphrasing Goebbel and overlaying his speech with Hitler’s favorite opera. 

Roberto Alvim couldn’t be more lucid. Had it not been for the controversy, the pressure of networks, society and the wear and tear on the political environment, it is quite likely that Bolsonaro would have kept him in office since it’s a fascist government,” tweeted another Brazilian.

Bolsonaro’s administration has decided to distance itself from Alvim regardless.

CREDIT: @NOBLECAVALCANTE / TWITTER

The day after the speech, Germany’s embassy declared, “The period of National Socialism is the darkest chapter in German history, bringing infinite suffering to humanity….We oppose any attempt to trivialize or even glorify the era of National Socialism.” Israel’s embassy issued a statement that put it bluntly: “Such a person cannot command the culture of our country and must be removed from office immediately.” Only after Israel called for Alvim’s ouster did Bolsonaro make what he called an “unfortunate pronouncement” that Alvim would be removed from office. The video is shockingly similar to Goebbel’s, stylistically, but the core nationalistic sentiments are one and the same. Alvim accepted his position as Secretary of Culture only after one of the previous title holders resigned when Bosonaro cut funding to LGBTQ+ artists.

Meanwhile, some Americans are taking the news with a soberingly dark sense of humor: “Former Brazilian culture minister Alvim should apply for immigration status here from @realDonaldTrump@GOP, and bosom buddy @LindseyGrahamSC. I’m sure that they will welcome another like-minded Nazi sympathizer into the USA,” one American tweeted. Others are saying that an elected official who has to paraphrase other speeches shouldn’t be in office anyway.

READ: This Is What Brazilians Think Of President Bolsonaro One Year Into His Presidency