Things That Matter

A Tragic Accident Left Two Teenage Daughters Without Parents While Vacationing In Turks And Caicos

Irma Isabel Barrera / Facebook

There is terrible news out of the Turks and Caicos Islands where authorities say three Texas tourists, including a married couple, drowned during a recent vacation. According to People Magazine, the couple, Irma Barrera, 33, and her husband, Roy Perez, 38, were vacationing with their 15-year-old daughter and the third victim and his daughter when they drowned after getting caught in a quick-moving tide this past Monday. 

The group was reportedly exploring Bambarra Beach, a popular and scenic tourist area when the group of five got caught in a tidal wave that fueled by strong winds. The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force said the incident happened around 1 p.m. near the beach which is located on the sparsely populated island of Middle Caicos.

Barrera’s body would be found washed ashore shortly after the incident and after searchers scoured the beaches, they recovered Perez’s a few hours later. The third body, identified as Dr. Richard Okoloise, was discovered early on Tuesday morning with assistance from the US Coast Guard.

The terrible incident has now left two families torn apart and two children devastated by the loss of a parent.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

The victims belonged to two families who hailed from Texas. Their families say the group was vacationing together along with their two girls. Residents in the area say that the families may have been attempting to swim a short distance through the shallow waters from Bambarra Beach to Pelican Cay, which is nearby to the beach when they were swept away in the fast-moving tide.

Rescuers were able to rescue both of the young girls from the water and save them from drowning. Both were being cared for shortly after by local social welfare services. Family members back home are working to get the children back to the home to the United States. According to KTRK-TV, family members of Barrera’s and Perez’s were traveling to the Caribbean archipelago on Wednesday to bring the couple’s daughter home and seek more answers on how this incident could have ever happened. 

“This was a tragic loss of life and obviously all of us are asking every question we can about what went wrong,” Commissioner of Police Trevor Botting said in a public statement. “Our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone, most especially the children involved.

“We live in a world filled with many bad things, but we still have good Samaritans,” Botting added. “I would like to thank those who came to the aide of the children and everyone who were a part of the search and rescue, this includes volunteers, our Emergency Response Teams and the U.S. Coastguard Helicopter crew.”

We are now learning more about the couple and father who tragically drowned. 

Credit: @abcnews / Twitter

Families and friends are now mourning the horrible incident and remembering those who have been lost. According to her Facebook profile, Barrera worked as a nurse at Angleton Emergency Room while her husband is being called a “family man” by various friends on Facebook. 

“My classmate, friend, brother this is how I’ll remember you. Every picture with your family always brought a smile. A class clown to say the least! I remember about a year ago you messaged me saying that you were proud of me. Yet today I want to say how proud I am of you. Your daughters adore you man! Your daughters will forever be in my prayers. May You & your Wife Rest In Peace.” a friend wrote on his Facebook profile.

Okoloise, an emergency medicine physician in Angleton, Texas, is being also hailed a great person who had an undeniable love for his young daughter. He was said to have always wanted to travel to Turks and Caicos if he ever got rich. 

“He loved medicine, traveling, and his family,” Annamarie Kilgore, a friend and colleague of Okoloise wrote on Facebook. “I will miss his ridiculous talks. However, I’m thankful he was called while being in his favorite place in the world. He always told me ‘if I ever disappear after a lottery win, I’ll be hiding in Turks and Caicos.'”

The deadly incident has prompted calls from local residents for authorities to put up warning signs on the islands which are often-deserted beaches. It’s yet to be determined if any action will be taken to further stop any future incident similar to this. 

Family friends have set up a GoFundMe page to pay for funeral arrangements.

READ: Central Americans Flee Their Countries Because Of Violence But Also Because They Have No Water

Artwork Created By Detained Teenagers Are On Display In El Paso In An Exhibit Called ‘Uncaged Art’

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Artwork Created By Detained Teenagers Are On Display In El Paso In An Exhibit Called ‘Uncaged Art’

UTEP

Between June 2018 and January 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services detained more than 6,000 teenagers from Central and South America in a tent city 40 miles south of El Paso. It was called the Tornillo Children’s Detention camp and was the largest detention center for children in the United States. While detained there, the teenagers, aged 13-17, were asked to participate in a social studies project to create art that reminded them of their home. Their art was on display around the tent city until a story by The New York Times shined a light on the teens’ paltry living conditions, and the government shut the facility down in January 2019.

As Tornillo Children’s Detention Camp was being shut down, workers trashed nearly all of the 400 pieces of art. However, one priest and several community organizations came together and were able to save 29 of the pieces.

Father Rafael Garcia, a Jesuit Priest, was one of the few outside visitors allowed into the camp.

Credit: Sacred Heart Church, El Paso, TX / Facebook

“It is hard to describe the mood there; some kids were very glum and sad, others had no expression,” Father Garcia told NBC News. “Then there were others interacting like normal kids.” The artwork was on display until January 2019, when the U.S. government decided to close the camp. As officers were tossing the artwork, Garcia asked for permission to redistribute the art to others who may want it.

“If I hadn’t been there, and received permission to keep some of the pieces, it probably would have all been thrown in the dumpster,” Garcia said.

With the artwork in hand, Garcia called Yolanda Chávez Leyva, Ph.D., University of El Paso Texas Professor and co-founder of El Paso’s Museo Urbano.

Credit: Borderzine Reporting across fronteras / YouTube

Leyva would go to the Tornillo Children’s Detention Center on her days off to visit with the kids. Garcia knew that she co-founded El Paso’s community museum known for preserving borderland history. Garcia wanted the museum and the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to protect the artwork. They did one better and put all the art on display at UTEP’s Centennial Museum. 

Father Garcia sees the final outcome–an exhibit featuring their work–as “a ray of light from a grim experience.”

Credit: UTEP

The Museum website describes the exhibit as reflective of “the resiliency, talent, and creativity of young men and women who trekked 2,000 miles from their homes in Central America to reach the United States.” The exhibit, titled ‘Uncaged Art,’ “provides us with a window into the personal world of migrant children whose visions and voices have often been left out of mainstream media accounts,” reads the website.

Still, the art is on display behind a chain-link fence, to remind visitors of the conditions the young artists were in at the time.

Credit: Borderzine Reporting across fronteras / YouTube

The social studies teachers allowed the students four days to create the art and allowed them to create individually or in groups. There were no other instructions other than to think of their home. Those instructions resulted in an array of mixed media art including dresses, sculptures and hundreds of drawings and sketches. Then, “camp officials” judged the art and selected their perceived best works to display around the camp.

Human rights attorney, Camilo Pérez-Bustillo thinks that the camp released the artwork as a PR stunt to look good.

Credit: UTEP

Pérez-Bustillo had interviewed about 30 children from the camp and believes the artwork was essentially curated by the facility. “I think they released it to look good,” Pérez-Bustillo told The Texas Observer. “They had so much negative publicity at the end from the national media, especially after news reports that their employees did not have to submit to FBI checks, they decided to shut it down and cut their losses.”  

For now, we don’t know the faces behind the artwork.

Credit: UTEP

In June 2018, Beto O’Rourke led hundreds of protesters to the tent city demanding humane conditions for the ever-expanding tent city. Temperatures were over 100 degrees while the children were living in tents. A DHS spokesperson told the public that the tents were air-conditioned. Some of the children told an attorney that the worst part of the facility was never knowing when they’d get out. Some kids would keep track of the days that passed by scribbling numbers on their forearms.

Still, the government’s response to the problem was to loosen the strict requirements for sponsorships. All of the children are now sponsored by people around the country.

Wherever they are, we hope that they see their artwork is cherished by our community.

Credit: “tornillo art” Digital Image. Texas Observer. 23 August 2019.

We know that the symbol of the quetzal bird created in this artwork is a symbol of freedom for Guatemala. In the words of one of the artists, as told by The Texas Observer, “The quetzal cannot be caged or it will die of sadness.”

READ: Texas Detention Officer Charged With Sexual Assault Of An Undocumented Mother’s Child

A Texas Family Is Suing Their Son’s School After They Forced Him To Color In His Fade With A Sharpie

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A Texas Family Is Suing Their Son’s School After They Forced Him To Color In His Fade With A Sharpie

One of the worst things about public school is the arbitrary way that dress codes are enforced. However, this isn’t just a conversation about skirt length or bra straps infractions. Uniform coding has a history of enforcing rules that violate individual civil rights especially for female students, Black students, and students of color.

Now, a case out of Texas is arguing that this sort of civil liberties violation is what happened to a student in April 2019 at a Houston-area school.

The family of middle school student, Juelz Trice, is suing the Pearland ISD School District for an incident last Spring where administration used permanent marker on the 14-year-old’s scalp.

Twitter / @ajplus

On April 16th, Trice received a new fade but it was cited as a dress code violation the very next day. The middle school student   who is Black was in the cafeteria for breakfast when he was told by the assistant principal, Tony Barcelona, to go to the office because of his haircut. According to the lawsuit, he and Barcelona were met by discipline clerk, Helen Day, and, later, teacher, Jeanette Peterson. There in the office, Trice was given two options: go to in-school suspension for his violation or use a black Sharpie to color his scalp in. Reportedly, Trice worried that in-school suspension would impact his eligibility for the track team so he chose the marker option.

According to the lawsuit, Day then took the black permanent marker and used it to fill in the design of Trice’s fade. Peterson was then asked to pick up another marker and help fill in the middle school student’s scalp. The lawsuit alleges that “They laughed as they took many minutes to color 13-year-old J.T’s scalp which took many days of scrubbing to come off.” Images taken of the boy’s scalp after the fact reveal that the marker made the design far more noticeable.

According to the family’s attorney, there was no attempt to notify Trice’s parents before his scalp was colored in.

Twitter / @mochamomma

The civil rights lawsuit cites the school district as well Barcelona, Peterson and Day as defendants in the claim. According to Randall Kallinen, attorney for the student’s parents, Dante Trice and Angela Washington, the school district has yet to meet with the family. The only thing that has been done to rectify this problem was to change the existing dress code. In May of 2019, after the incident with Trice, the updated code removed restrictions on hairstyles and carvings.

It should be noted that the administrators and teacher involved in the incident did not receive corrective action. In fact, Barcelona, who was a vice-principal at the time, has now been promoted to principal. All three still work at Berry Miller Junior High where the situation occurred.

“I was mad. I was really mad,” Dante Trice said of his son’s ordeal. “I just imagine three people holding him down with a marker against his will.”

In a new conference about the incident, attorney Kallien cited a 2015 Department of Justice study that found that Black students were 143% more likely to be suspended than white students.

Twitter / @MarcelinoKHOU

“We are here today to right this wrong through the court system because apparently, PISD doesn’t care about African American people,” Kallinen claimed in the televised statements.

While Houston has received the title of the most diverse city in America, Pearland where the middle school is located is much less diverse. Of its population, nearly 63% is white and only 17% is Black.

While the lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, that isn’t all it is attempting to fix. Filed in the Southern District of Texas, the suit also requests that the court order school district employees receive racial sensitivity training. Considering this incident, it seems the school could definitely benefit from this.

Local activists have come out in support of Trice and his family, but they have received a lot of encouragement from Twitter as well.

Twitter / @DovieWatson

As this Twitter user expressed, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen alleged racism in school dress codes or from school administrators. In the past, school districts have faced lawsuits over dress codes that declare braids, long hair, and other so-called “ethnic” hairstyles “against the rules.” In these instances, it is usually found that the school district has violated the civil liberties of students.

Some pointed out that instances like these are more like policing than educating.

Twitter / @taylorwestc

A lot is asked of teachers and school administrators. We definitely won’t argue that. However, the number one thing required of them is to teach our young people. When we see stories like these, we have to wonder how much time is being spent educating and how much is being spent policing these kids. When it comes to their hairstyle, it’s best to let the parents and kids take this one.

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