Things That Matter

Youngest Victim Of Alabama Tornado Is 6-Year-Old Armando ‘AJ’ Hernandez

The community of Beauregard, Alabama is still cleaning up after a deadly F3 tornado tore through the rural area. The death toll of the tornado is at 23 people and all missing people have been accounted for. The youngest victim of the tornado is 6-year-old Armando “AJ” Hernandez. The weekend saw 34 tornadoes touch down in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina as the storm cell moved through the southeastern part of the U.S.

Twenty-three people died during a catastrophic weekend of tornado activity in the southeastern U.S.

Credit: @wsfa12news / Twitter

President Trump tweeted about the tornado saying he directed FEMA to offer the impacted communities “A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama.” The victims range in age from 6 to 89 years old. According to USA Today, the tornado that struck Lee County Alabama had sustained winds of 170 mph and cut a mile wide swath through 70 miles in the rural community.

Armando “AJ” Hernandez is the youngest victim to die in the tornado.

Credit: Kayla Melton / Facebook

Hernandez’s mother, Kayla Melton, posted during the storm desperate to find her son. Family, friends, and strangers flooded the comments of her plea for help with offers of prayers and condolences before it was confirmed that Hernandez had died in the tornado. Others offered to go look for her child in the wreckage of Beauregard, Alabama that has been seen on national news stations.

When the news of Hernandez’s death was confirmed, his aunt posted a heartbreaking message about her nephew.

Credit: Tina Melton / Facebook

Strangers came together to offer his aunt support on social media after hearing about the tragic death of the little boy.

“I do not know you but my heart breaks for you all,” Facebook user Michelle Brown Burris wrote on Tina Melton’s post. “My best friend lost her daughter in the Joplin tornado in 2011. I know the pain may seem unbearable but I pray that God brings you all some comfort especially to his mother.”

Hernandez was with his older brother and father in their home when they took a direct hit from the tornado.

Credit: Kayla Melton / Facebook

According to Al.com, Hernandez, his 10-year-old brother, and their father huddled in the closet when the tornado started to tear through the rural community. Despite the father holding onto both boys, the house took a direct hit from the tornado and the children were torn from his arms.

Hernandez’s brother was found after the storm and had a broken arm and a skull fracture. Hernandez’s father sustained broken ribs and other minor injuries.

“They’re holding up,” Bobby Kidd, Hernandez’s grandfather, told AL.com about the state of the family after the storm. “They’re holding up better than I would be. I know it’s going to get difficult as we go home… But Beauregard is the greatest community.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with costs related to the devastating tornado.

Credit: Kayla Melton / Facebook

“On Sunday, March 3, 2019, A destructive tornado devastated Lee County, Alabama leaving many families heartbroken. My best friend Kayla Melton was affected tremendously by this. She lost her home, and most importantly her son Armando ‘AJ’ Hernandez,” reads the GoFundMe page.

“We can only imagine the hurt that her family is experiencing at this time. Her boyfriend and her other son have been transferred to UAB hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.  We know that God is still in control even in the midst of turmoil.”

“If you would be so kind to please consider donating to help this family in their time of need it would be greatly appreciated.”

“If you are unable to donate please send up a prayer for this family and others affected by this catastrophic weather event.”

“Thank you and God bless.”

President Trump has announced a trip to the devastated area on Friday to survey the damage.

Credit: @TheRealDWoo / Twitter

“President Trump has been very gracious and pledged his unwavering support to Alabama since the devastating storms and tornadoes struck Alabama over the weekend,” Governor Kay Ivey told USA Today. Gov. Ivey also confirmed that Trump approved her request for a major disaster declaration.

READ: Coastal Towns In Southwestern Mexico Flooded From Major Storm Surges From Hurricane Willa

Puerto Rico Is Entering Hurricane Season Still Recovering But Trump Has Money For A 4th Of July Parade

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico Is Entering Hurricane Season Still Recovering But Trump Has Money For A 4th Of July Parade

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Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in 2017. Nearly two years later and infrastructure is still in planning mode. That’s because, even though Congress allocated $20 billion to rebuild Puerto Rico, very little has been released to Puerto Rico.

As campaign season for 2020 is in full swing, Trump has ordered the largest, most expensive parade in U.S. history. Military tanks will line the National Mall. Warplanes will fly over the Washington Monument, and he’ll have his own televised address. Celebrating America’s Independence Day will cost $92 million, and it leaves behind Puerto Ricans.

On July 1, The House Oversight Committee sent a letter demanding the White House release sealed documents surrounding Hurricane Maria.

@JRehling / Twitter

A similar letter was sent on May 6th with no response. Democrats are now seeking a “compulsory process” that would legally require the administration to hand over the documents. The Bush administration released 18,000 documents related to Hurricane Katrina when asked.

The Trump administration has come under fire for its lack of response to the disaster. What is it hiding?

In October 2017, Trump visited a Puerto Rican church and tossed paper towels.

@6halfdozenother / Twitter

Given that nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, critics point to this moment as an example of the lack of empathy shown by the President of the United States for U.S. citizens in the midst of a worsening tragedy.

At the time, he painted the death toll of 16 people as a victory.

Trump argued that Maria wasn’t “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

@climateprogress / Twitter

In an attempt to downplay the impacts of Maria, Trump used the false death count toll as a symbol of victory. He later refused to acknowledge the official death toll of nearly 3,000 deaths.

The death toll rose in the six months following the storm as a result of the lack of electricity, clean water, and weakened healthcare.

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San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz blames the Trump administration for “neglect.” “I screamed, literally, out at the top of my lungs to say ‘We’re dying here’ and the bureaucracy and the inefficiency of the federal government was killing us,” she told BBC news.

The Puerto Ricans who used FEMA’s hotel vouchers on the mainland are now largely homeless.

Netflix

Netflix’s documentary After Maria depicts a total lack of strategy for Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed by Maria. They were granted a fixed amount of time in hotels on the mainland, without any support to rebuild their home. When the time ran out, they were transferred to homeless shelters.

The state of Georgia has implemented a ‘Puerto Rican interview’ for those applying for a driver’s license.

@carlitocenteno / Twitter

After Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services refused to return Puerto Rican Kenneth Cabán’s identity documents, Cabán is suing the department for “unlawful and discriminatory treatment of American citizens from Puerto Rico.” The agency claims Puerto Rican documentation is cause for “fraud review.”

All this making it clearer that Puerto Ricans are second class citizens.

@ricardorossello / Twitter

Twitter user Carlos Centeno thinks that “too many white folks, we Puerto Ricans are undocumented immigrants until we prove otherwise. What Georgia is doing is not only racist, it’s economically debilitating to these U.S.-born citizens and their families.”

In After Maria, we witness how these experiences lead displaced Puerto Ricans to conclude that they’re not wanted.

Netflix

As devastating as Hurricane Maria was to the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, what After Maria shows is the psychological effects of what happened after. We see a young pre-teenaged girl fall into a depression as she’s bullied by her new peers in New York. We see how the system failed Puerto Ricans and how there could be no other reasonable conclusion for the survivors.

There’s the trauma of experiencing that hurricane and surviving, while so many didn’t.

@yarimarbonilla / Twitter

Folks are already tweeting about the stress of the power going out already, in July. Puerto Rico isn’t ready for another hurricane season. It’s still recovering from 2017.

And the trauma of prepping for another season.

@luvsjoonie / Twitter

Many Puerto Ricans want to be granted statehood. They want the same treatment and respect offered to victims of Hurricane Harvey. They do pay taxes, but they don’t benefit like other taxpayers.

Largely, Puerto Ricans have taken it upon themselves to cope and recover.

@NPR / Twitter

These are volunteers at a retirement community in Rio Piedras. They’re helping to train its residents on how to cope and deal with the stress and depression that persists years after Hurricane Maria. Given that those communities were at much higher risk of mortality after the hurricane, the fear is credible.

With news that Trump’s Fourth Parade might get washed out, this Puerto Rican has one thing to say:

@MAGGIEHALOWELL / Twitter

Hope it helps. Happy 4th of July.

READ: Bad Bunny And Ricky Martin Killed A ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill In Puerto Rico Furthering LGBTQ+ Rights In The Caribbean

This Puerto Rican Beauty Is The First Miss Alabama Beauty Pageant Contestant In 20 Years And It’s About Time

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This Puerto Rican Beauty Is The First Miss Alabama Beauty Pageant Contestant In 20 Years And It’s About Time

What comes to mind when you think of a “beauty queen”? If images of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Southern girls with money to blow come to mind, you wouldn’t be in the minority.

Kailee Grace Montes, the 22-year-old Latina of Puerto Rican descent competing in the Miss Alabama beauty pageant, is trying to change all that.

In 2019, Montes was the first Latina in 20 years to compete in the Miss Alabama competition. Not only that, but Montes was one of only five of the 47 girls competing who identified as a minority.

According to Montes, she was initially attracted to the idea of participating in pageants for the same reason many Latinas pick up a side-hustle: to pay for college. And it worked! Montes racked up enough scholarship money to pay for two years of college after winning Miss Mobile Bay 2019. But the earnings weren’t the only thing that attracted Montes: “I also thought that pageants were a way I could give back to the community,” Montes said. Specifically, Montes was excited to bring a spotlight to the Boys and Girls Club of America, an after-school program for young adults. But being a Latina competing in a majority-white state meant that Montes had her work cut out for her.

The last–and only–Latina that has won the Miss America Pageant was Paraguay-born Sharlene Wells Hawkes in 1985.

The prevalence of Latina participation in beauty pageants in other parts of the world makes it that more shocking that Latinas are so few and far between in US-based pageants. Although Montes was the first Latina contestant in the Alabama pageant in 20 years, beauty pageants are a common part of many young women’s lives in much of Latinidad. Countries like Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil have a rich history of beauty pageants, with over one-third of total Miss Universe winners coming from the region.

As for Montes, she’s admitted that being one of the only minorities in the Miss Alabama pageant was a challenging experience: “I feel like I’m one of the few who understands the plights minorities have to go through,” Montes said during an interview with NBC News during semifinals

Although Montes placed in the Top 12 in the Miss Alabama competition, she’s not giving up yet.

She plans on continuing to enter pageants and has hopes of one-day attending law school. But, in the end, she hopes that her presence in the Miss Alabama pageant has been an example of what Latinas can accomplish, even with the odds stacked against them.

“As Latinas, we can make any change,” Montes said. “We can change the tone and the cultural temperature by stepping up, speaking out and working together”.