EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Six months before Valentine’s Day 2018, Joaquin Oliver was celebrating his 17th birthday with close friends and family in his Parkland, Florida home.
He’d never make it to his 18th birthday.
Oliver, one of the 17 students who were slain inside Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida, was a native of Venezuela who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 3 with his family. He had just become a citizen months before he was killed during his senior year of high school.
In the wake of Oliver’s death, his father, Manuel, an artist, became obsessed with changing the narrative around gun violence in the United States. He created a non-profit, ChangeTheRef, which creates ‘Walls of Demand’ throughout the country in order to give Joaquin a voice through the power of art.
On August 4, 2019 — the date which would have been Joaquin’s 19th Birthday, his family is joining El Paso’s Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center to honor Joaquin and the plight of thousands of immigrants to this country with the painting of a mural in Central El Paso.
“With the United States being the leading weapon exporter in the world, the violence felt internally through lack of regulation is jointly experienced by migrants fleeing violence in their home countries. We aim to highlight the intersection of gun violence in the United States and its effect on immigrant populations,” Linda Rivas, Executive Director of Las Americas said.
Manuel and his wife Patricia will travel to El Paso and Juarez to meet with migrants waiting on both sides of the border to claim their asylum. They hope to speak with those from their home country of Venezuela and express through art what the American Dream meant for them in the wake of increasing violence in Venezuela.
On the eve of Joaquin’s 19th birthday, they will unveil a mural on the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center building, located at 1500 E. Yandell Avenue.
In the past, Manuel Oliver has described his work as a way to talk to his son and have his son talk to him through the expression of each mural.
What: “See the Voice, Be the Change”
When: Sunday, August 4, 2019; 7 p.m.
Where: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, 1500 E. Yandell Dr.
Who: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Group, Change the Ref’s Manuel and Patricia Oliver, and We Are the Wall
What: Mural Unveiling and Joaquin Oliver’s 19th Birthday Celebration
To donate to Las Americas for supplies, you can do so by donating online through this LINK.