Things That Matter

El Paso Artists Joined Together To Commemorate El Paso Gun Violence Victims With A Mural That Highlights Community Strength

Just seven weeks after the massacre at an El Paso Wal-Mart that took the lives of 22 people and injured 24 others, the border city is still recovering from their tragic losses. Though the victims have been laid to rest and the survivors are working towards healing, the city is still feeling the effects of the life-shattering experience. 

As national news has moved on from the tragedy, the minds and hearts of local El Pasoans are still with the embattled town. 

With that in mind, a new mural created by a pair of talented street artists has been created to celebrate the power of the Texas town. 

Twitter / @AlyssaCBS4

El Paso brothers, John Ramirez and Jamie Hernandez Jr., worked hard to craft this graffiti style mural. Reading “El Poderoso Tejano,” the vast wall painting is located between Ascarate Street and Valencia Place on the United States side of the border city. The mural was sponsored by local tee-shirt company, OG Family. The company will be selling tee-shirts of the mural design and all profits from their sale will go to the victims of the El Paso assault.

“It shows that everybody came as a community,” David Barbosa, co-owner of OG Family said of the mural. “For one purpose. That purpose is to show that we’re united no matter what happens. At the end, El Paso is united.”

The mural will also be featured in a music video for local El Paso record label, 915 Records Familia. The rap video will be filmed on September 28th. During the video shoot, a local car show will also take place at the mural’s site bringing together El Paso’s car community, rap community and street art community all in one spot. 

Though the Ramirez Brothers are now getting the credit they deserve for this mural, they were not named by local El Paso media who first reported the new artwork

Twitter / @cassyjernandez1 

In a video first promoting the mural, the brothers were not named as the artists. Instead, they were called “unlikely artists” and “former gang members.” Thankfully, Cassie Hernandez, a family member of the two artists, took to Twitter and credited them for their amazing work. 

In response, Twitter applauded the Ramirez Brothers’ craftsmanship and celebrated the spirit of El Paso’s survivors. 

 Twitter / @braydenbern

This Twitter user called out the attention to detail the artists put into the piece and also credited their commitment to graffiti-style art. The street art style came into popularity in the 1980s with the emergence of hip-hop culture. Cholo-inspired graffiti script especially became a calling card of Latinx communities and their street artists. While street art was once looked down upon, it is now celebrated for the unique and bold art form that it is.  

Many supporters were offended on the Ramirez Brothers’ behalf for the dis by local news. 

 Twitter / @angelitaaaxo

The original news story definitely did a disservice by leaving out the Ramirez Brothers’ names and by calling out any speculative former gang affiliation they might have had. Instead, their work as amazing artists and dedicated members of their community should be commended. There’s nothing “unlikely” about their talent or their love for El Paso.

This mural joins others that have recently gone up in El Paso to honor the victims of mass shootings.

Tweet / @thedailybeast

A mural honoring Joaquin Oliver, a victim of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, was unveiled the day after the tragedy in El Paso. The mural was planned before the Wal-Mart attack so the timing made the new addition to El Paso even more heartbreaking. Local artist Gabe Vasquez also created a mural reading “El Paso Strong” dedicated to the spirit of the border city.

Two Teens Charged With Child Endangerment After They Filmed a Video Of Toddler They Were Babysitting Smoking A Vape Pen

Things That Matter

Two Teens Charged With Child Endangerment After They Filmed a Video Of Toddler They Were Babysitting Smoking A Vape Pen

Parentology / Twitter

Pennsylvania police have confirmed that they are filing child endangerment charges against two teenagers who filmed a video of a two-year-old boy smoking a vape pen while they were babysitting him. According to police, the authorities were alerted to the video via the local youth violence prevention hotline, Safe2Say Something.

The video shows the toddler inhaling from a vaping device and falling down while he coughs and cries. The laughter of the two girls can be heard in the background of the video. The teenage girls–who are 18 and 17, respectively–allegedly filmed the video of the toddler smoking and then posted the 20-second clip to Snapchat. 

Shortly after being posted and reported, the video went viral on social media, with the public demanding that the police get involved. 

The Indiana Criminal Investigation Unit responded to the outcry with a statement saying that they were “aware of a video” and were “investigating the related incident in which a 2-year-old child was given a vaping device”. They confirmed that the “involved persons and child have been identified and charges are pending.” The authorities also revealed that the toddler did not display any other visible effects from the vape, which apparently contained 3% nicotine and no THC.

According to authorities, the local school district has identified the teenagers in the video as students who attend one of their schools. They provided the students’ names to the police.  “United administration was made aware of the video today, and the matter is being investigated by the authorities,” said United School District of Armagh Superintendent Dr. Barbara Parkins in a statement. “We believe that two of our students were involved in the situation. The names of those students were provided to the authorities.”

Viewers were especially disturbed by the video in light of the troubling cases of illness and death that have recently been associated with vape pens,

As of January 7, 2020, a total of 2,602 e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) cases or deaths have been reported to The Center for Disease Control. According to the CDC, 82% of those cases involved the use of THC-containing vaping pens, most of which were obtained from “informal sources” (i.e. black-market products). 

The media-dubbed epidemic has elicited a strong response from health officials who urge the public to avoid vaping pens and e-cigarettes at all costs. “E-cigarettes are not safe and can cause irreversible lung damage and lung disease,” American Lung Association president Harold Wimmer recently said in a statement addressing the health epidemic. “No one should use e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product.”. 

As for the toddler’s mother, she is horrified that her child was subjected to such dangerous activity without her knowledge. 

“I’m disgusted. I’m very upset.I’m in disbelief they would even laugh or even have something like that in reach of a child’s possession,” the child’s mother told local news station WXPI. “I’m not trusting anybody anymore to babysit my child,” she continued. “I’m done. I don’t even want to put him in daycare. I can’t trust anybody anymore.”

As for the fallout from this incident, the video is sparking a larger debate on social media about the callous way in which many Gen Zers use social media to publicize their problematic activities for clout and retweets. In an internet culture that glorifies problematic “pranks” and public humiliation, this kind of incident feels, for many, like the last straw.

The public’s outcry seems to largely stem from the fact that the teenagers were laughing while they recklessly put a toddler in danger. 

It’s one thing to put a child in harm’s way, it’s another to laugh about it, and it’s an entirely other case when you post and brag about it on social media.

Some Twitter-users pointed out the fact that vape pens have recently become incredibly dangerous. 

The reality is, EVALI is a new phenomenon that we still don’t know all the facts about. 

This Latina mother makes clear that, should anyone do the same thing to her child, she would take the law into her own hands:

We can only imagine the feelings of shock and betrayal this mother is experiencing right now.

This viewers still seemed to be in denial about the entire situation:

As much as we’d love for this video to have been doctored, we have a feeling that it is 100% real. 

This person is primarily disturbed about the girls’ reaction to the toddler coughing and crying

It is likely that these teen girls didn’t know the danger they were putting this child in by letting him smoke an e-cigarette.

A 5-Year-Old Girl Was Abandoned By Her Parents And Found Chained To Her Bed In Mexico

Things That Matter

A 5-Year-Old Girl Was Abandoned By Her Parents And Found Chained To Her Bed In Mexico

Daily Mail / Twitter

More often than we might like, headlines tend to describe literal, living nightmares—and the recent story about a 5-year-old girl abandoned by her parents in Mexico is no exception. On January 3, a young girl was found in an empty house in San Luis Potosi, tethered to her bed by a rusty chain. Neighbors had heard cries for help coming from the house and notified the local police. When authorities arrived on the scene, they discovered that the girl was living in terrible conditions: not only was she alone, but she was surrounded by piles of trash and filth. Mexican newspaper Excelsior reported that investigators also found a small bucket near the bed, which the child was forced to use as a toilet. She had bruises on her leg and ankle from the metal cuff. After noting her injuries, police transferred her to a local hospital where and she was found to be in stable condition. As of now, the state prosecutor’s office is collaborating with child protective services and police in an attempt to locate the child’s parents.

Not much is yet known about this child (her name is not being released), and no arrests have yet been made. But what we do know is that her situation is not unique.

When searching for information about this story, countless results recounting nearly identical situations appeared, with headlines like “Girl, 6, Was Chained to Bed for 5 Years in Norco Home;” and “‘They’re Chained Up to Their Bed’: Hear 911 Call From Girl Who Escaped Captivity, Saved Her 12 Siblings.” Although each case offers its own twisted nuances, we can’t help but wonder: How is it possible that this horror story of captivity, abuse, and neglect is so common?

The tale that garnered the most media attention in recent years—mentioned in the above headline about a girl who escaped to save her 12 siblings—chronicles the experience of the Turpin children, all of whom were held captive by their parents over the course of almost three decades.

The torture and abuse enacted upon the Turpin children started as neglect, according to officials. In the beginning, the children’s parents would tie them to their beds as a form of punishment, using rope before later graduating to padlocks and chains. At first, the children would only be confined for short periods; but over time, these stints began to stretch longer and longer, sometimes spanning days or weeks, and the siblings—aged 2 to 29—would not be allowed to use the bathroom.

When the siblings were discovered by police in January 2018, almost all of them were severely malnourished. Evidently, when they were not chained up, they were fed very little food according to a strict regimen. Sometimes, the Turpin parents would buy food and place it in plain sight, taunting the children by prohibiting them from tasting it. According to Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin, at the time the siblings were rescued, one 12-year-old weighed what an average 7-year-old might weigh, and the female 29-year-old clocked in at a mere 82 pounds. The family dogs, on the other hand, appeared to be in good spirits and overall good health.

In spite of her emaciated physical condition, the 17-year-old managed to escape by climbing out a window and dialing 911 on a deactivated cell phone (federal law requires that all cell phones be capable of contacting emergency services, even those that are not operational). According to Hestrin, she and some of her siblings had been devising an escape plan for over two years.

So, statistically, how many victims of domestic captivity are able to share successful stories of escape? It’s tough to say, as there is no definitive number of children in domestic captivity, and it’s ultimately impossible to compare the numbers of known cases with unknown, still-active cases.

Plus, experts say that the potential consequences of attempting to escape often deter victims from even trying. Fear of violence and/or punishment—paired with psychological conditions like Stockholm Syndrome, which occurs when captives become emotionally attached to their captors—is often a major reason that captives don’t try to flee. Long periods of abuse can also lead to a loss of perspective in victims, causing them to feel grateful for any sort of lull in abuse and potentially falling into complacency or acceptance when the abuse is paused or slowed.  

Although the children mentioned above were held captive by their own parents, human trafficking—and especially the trafficking of young children—continues to be a pervasive global issue. According to the latest global estimates, 25 million adults and children are currently being exploited for forced labor, and that is not a comprehensive metric. The statistics surrounding the breadth of human exploitation are staggering, and if you suspect that someone is a victim of trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is the best resource. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888: Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take any and all reports of potential cases.