See the Voice, Be the Change

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 Las Americas is so pleased to have been given the opportunity to collaborate with Manuel and Patricia Oliver and their non-profit, Change the Ref, to learn more about gun violence and its implications for all people in the United States.

Change the Ref was founded in March of 2018 with a mission to empower youth voices to make changes on critical issues affecting our nation through education, conversation, and activism. Through the use of urban art and other nonviolent confrontation, Change the Ref seeks to expose the disastrous effects of the mass shooting pandemic on . They seek to force solutions essential to healing mass shooting victims’ families’ lifelong grief.

Like the stories we see every day at Las Americas, Manuel had a vision of a better life for him and his family when he made the decision to immigrate to the United States from Venezuela. Most immigrants, when coming into the United States, are fleeing countries where they face violence, political instability, or persecution on the basis of factors like sexual identity, gender identity, religious identity, race, and more. One proponent of Manuel’s resentment for gun violence and a lack of regulatory legislation is that it allows for preventable violence against everyone in the country, including the recent influx of immigrants.

Manuel painted a mural on one of the Las Americas walls as a homage to his son, and each of the other victims in the Parkland shooting. It displays a message that is both personal to him, and significant to all those seeking justice for our nation.