Things That Matter

This 13-Year-Old Boy’s Face Caught On Fire During A Science Class Demonstration

As a kid, one of the most exciting parts of science class is observing how certain chemicals react with each other—seeing how all the abstract information you’ve learned on paper manifests in real life. Of course, every school science lab is supposed to have an eye-wash station, a shower, a fire extinguisher, and other such safety tools in case something goes awry, and while accidents do happen, it is imperative that science demonstrations in the classroom be handled with extreme care. Although no hard evidence currently exists on how often school lab accidents occur—as no entity tracks them as a distinct category—scores of preventable incidents are reported every year.

Most recently, the case of 13-year-old Priest Rivera has been making headlines.

Credit: Instagram | CBSNews8

Rivera’s face and upper body were severely burned when his teacher mistakenly botched a science demonstration in June 2019, and his family has filed a lawsuit against San Diego’s Encinitas Union School District.

Last June, sixth-grade teacher Lori Feinberg fumbled a seemingly simple science demonstration called the “black snake experiment.” This experiment involves the mixing of baking soda, sugar, sand, and alcohol, which is then introduced to a flame in order to form of a “sugar snake.” (When the mixture of baking soda and sugar gets hot, it decomposes to create carbon dioxide gas. A lack of oxygen in the sugar from the combustion creates carbonate and water vapor; the carbonate is pushed out by the pressure from the carbon dioxide, and voila! A snake is born.)

“It wasn’t really working and the science teacher kept pouring more rubbing alcohol to make the flame build up more. It went wrong and blew up in my face,” Priest told CBS News 8. He explained that he had ignited, and his friends surrounded him saying, “He’s on fire!”

The lawsuit filed on December 30, 2019, claims that Feinberg “recklessly” performed the “dangerous” science experiment which involved alcohol and flames “in windy conditions.” It also alleges that Feinberg provided her students with neither safety instructions nor protective equipment (like safety glasses) before performing the “black snake” experiment. The complaint also cites “severe and permanent injuries to Priest,” alleging both negligence and negligent action and stating that “Feinberg and the District knew it was highly probable that injury could occur when conducting an experiment involving flames, but knowingly disregarded that risk.” The family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages for Priest’s present and future hospital bills.

Although, as mentioned above, no hard numbers currently exist to verify the frequency of school lab accidents, the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Health and Safety is seeking out “reliable data.”

Credit: Facebook | John M. Mantel / Daily Mail

According to Scientific American, “surveys find incidents to be much more common in academic settings than in industrial labs”—and if university labs are seeing high numbers of injury and death, imagine how much less prepared public elementary, middle, and high school labs are likely to be.

Indeed, another student victim of a science experiment gone wrong was awarded $59.1 in damages from the New York Department of Education last July. Alonzo Yanes and classmate Julia Saltonstall were left with severe burns after a botched demonstration by a high school teacher in 2014. Science teacher Anna Poole attempted to conduct a “Rainbow Experiment,” a popular staple in high school chemistry classes due to its rapid and intense bursts of flame.

The Rainbow Experiment involves a variety of mineral salts and lit candles, usually placed in a line. An accelerant commonly used in the experiment is methanol, an extremely volatile liquid that shows how different salts produce distinct colors when burned. However, methanol also produces vapor clouds that can quickly spread flames (or, conversely, which can linger and be ignited by unwitting sparks later on). It was this substance that Poole used in her demonstration, pouring it out of a gallon-sized jug instead of a safer, smaller container.

Students said that she had only reached the second dish when a massive flame spread down the line of dishes and enveloped Yanes in flames, ultimately burning 30% of his body. Students also remarked that Poole was the only one in the room wearing safety goggles.

Rivera’s parents have addressed the school’s reticence to claim responsibility for what happened to their son, and the consensus within the scientific community is a similar one: almost all such incidents are preventable by improving oversight and supervision. They are not simply the consequence of random misfortune.

According to chemical safety expert Neal Langerman, “The problem of school lab danger lies in management responsibility.” With proper training, appropriate safety measures (like wearing protective clothing), and regular procedural oversight, accidents like those that have affected countless young students (as well as teachers) all over the country can be avoided in the future.

Afro-Latinas Inspiring Us To Live Out The Dream With Their Poetry

Things That Matter

Afro-Latinas Inspiring Us To Live Out The Dream With Their Poetry

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When you’re a Latina who’s walked through life receiving a slew of comments, like “you’re pretty for a morena” or “you could be cute if you fixed that pelo malo,” you know that it isn’t always easy finding women in media who look like you. Let alone in the fields of academia and literature. With our world seemingly turned upside down, FIERCE is paying homage to Latinas who have worked to empower Black women through their words and thoughts on Afro-Latinidad.

Check out some of our favorite powerful Latinas celebrating our roots below.

Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo is an Afro-Dominican spoken word poet and author who hails from New York City. With each line that she delivers, Acevedo does members of the Latino community a favor by highlighting and praising its African ancestry. Her work lovingly celebrates the influence her Blackness has impressed upon her own cultural traditions. “My first language I spoke was Spanish/ Learned from lullabies whispered in my ear/ My parents’ tongue was a gift which I quickly forgot after realizing my peers did not understand it./ They did not understand me,” she says in her poem “Afro-Latina.” Besides holding an impressive presence on Instagram, Acevedo has addressed TEDTalk stages, appeared on BET and Mun2, and authored books like “The Poet X” and “Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths.”

Follow her on Instagram here.

Sharee Yveliz

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The “I Mean, I Guess” author has an African-American father and a mother who hails from the Dominican Republic. She has spoken openly about feeling isolated from both cultures. Her poem “Negra Bella” is about empowerment and finding your own way.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe

Del Orbe is a formerly undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic who writes and performs spoken word poetry. Her Instagram page features a collection of her poems, thoughts presented as a stream of consciousness, photos, and memes. Her poetry works to shed light on issues facing the Afro-Dominican community, including the immigrant experience. Braiding her desires to promote resistance and visibility for low-income immigration, Del Orbe’s work is definitely one for any poetry enthusiast to watch.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Ariana Brown

Ariana Brown is an African-American-Mexican-American poet whose experience of being raised in San Antonio, Texas largely inspired her to create the Afro-Latina representation that she often missed out on while growing up. Brown’s poetry takes on so many of the issues Latinas are forced to deal with, including race, ethnicity, culture, and sexual orientation. In poems like “Inhale: The Ceremony,” the Black writer addresses the ways in which African ancestry is often erased and discredited in history as well as in modern cultures.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Yazmerlin Rodriguez

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Through her numerous posts on Instagram, Rodriguez’s use of the social platform proves that as an artist she prefers to dabble in more than just one art form. She models, opens up about her long-term pursuit of education via physical therapy, and writes epic poems that will excite the heart of any Latina who has ever doubted the beauty and power of her rizos. The Afro-Dominicana from the Bronx, New York uses her poetic verses to remind readers that Black Latinos are “proof of survival and resilience” and that “‘Black don’t crack’ is more than just skin deep.”

Follow her on Instagram here.

Venessa Marco

If you have yet to be blessed with the words and observations of this Cuban-Puerto Rican, prepare for an earthquake of emotion that her words will undoubtedly bring out in you. Back in 2014, the Afro-Latina made waves across the Internet when she performed her spoken word poem “Patriarchy.” The piece speaks to the constant sexualization from men and media that so many women often endure. These days, Marco is still stomping down the patriarchy and fighting against colorism, racism, sexism, and other systems of oppression.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Aja Monet

Monet is a Cuban-Jamaican poet, writer, and lyricist from Brooklyn, New York. Back in 2007, when she was 19, she became the youngest poet to ever become the Nuyorican Poets Café Grand Slam Champion. For any Latina finding herself enraged, disheartened, or infuriated by today’s post-2016 election, Monet’s politically driven poems will give you something to lean on. Her work speaks to the everyday struggles of being a Black woman, racism, Trump, sisterhood, solidarity, and displacement. She has two published books, including “The Black Unicorn Sings” and “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter.”

Follow her on Instagram here.

Tonya Ingram

Ingram became a New York Knicks Poetry Slam Champion back in 2011 and was a member of the 2013 Nuyorican Grand Slam team. The Bronx-born poet has published her work for two books: “Growl and Snare” as well as “Another Black Girl Miracle.” Each and every one of her words is steeped with intention and speaks to the Black girl’s experience with a strong sense of wisdom and self-love.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Here’s What Telemundo And Univision Are Up To While The Rest Of Us Are Out Fighting For Black Lives

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Here’s What Telemundo And Univision Are Up To While The Rest Of Us Are Out Fighting For Black Lives

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In the wake of videos showing the arrest and death of George Floyd, protests have erupted across the country.

The video capturing Floyd’s death shows the 46-year-old African-American struggling to breathe under the harsh restrained of a police officer who used his knee to keep Floyd pinned to the ground by his neck. As Floyd struggled, bystanders pled with the arresting police officers to allow him to breathe.

Along with the protests and various outcries from political figures and celebrities across the country, media outlets have been thorough in their reports of the protests. Coverage has ranged from reports directly at the scene of protests as well as interviews with protestors and Black Lives Matter advocates and allies. Over the weekend, many outlets have also focused on the ways in which the protests have taken shape across the country with a small percentage of participants looting stores and being forced to battle against police who have resorted to using tear gas and violence to combat rioters.

Unfortunately, outlets like Telemundo and Univision have chosen to cover the events taking place by sensationalizing the violence taking place.

The two outlets, known for their coverage of Latino-related news, also have a common history of juggling racial issues along with biases within its newsrooms. It turns out, in a time when their Black audiences need them most, the two media outlets have failed once again. Over the weekend, users on Twitter were quick to call out both Telemundo and Univision for their fear-inducing coverage of the protests that have taken place over the weekend.

Speaking about the biased coverage one users’ post to Twitter sparked thousands of comments and retweets.

“I find it interesting that hispanic media like Univision & Telemundo are so selective on whats broadcasted in regards to the protests and riots going on knowing thats where the majority of our latin/hispanic parents depend on 4 info,” a user by the name of @valeriabty_wrote. “Turn that shit off n teach ur parents instead!”

Others were quick to point out the coverage is pretty par for the course when it comes to the Latinidad.

“I am a black Puerto Rican and I could not agree more, we Afro Latinos have little to no visibility within the Latino community. Colorism is alive and kicking in the community,” another user wrote.

Here’s hoping Telemundo and Univision find a way to change their approach to coverage and support the Black community.