Atlanta Police have launched an investigation into a viral video showing a 12-year-old boy being struck and verbally assaulted by members of his family. It also appears to show the word gay cut on the side of his head with clippers, supposedly as a punishment.
“It popped up on my social media on Friday and when I saw it my heart was broken because I saw a piece of myself in that,” said activist and city council candidate Devin Barrington-Ward.
The child’s home is located in District 9, the district Barrington-Ward hopes to represent. So, he reached out to the young boy and his mother, not for politics, but because he saw a piece of himself in the young boy.
“As a Black queer man, I have experienced some of the same homophobia and some of the same abuse by the hands of people that I love as a child,” he said.
The video, uploaded to Instagram on June 18, shows the child, repeatedly hit in the head, as he is threatened with more violence. Identified only as Tyler, the preteen boy can be seen getting abused and beaten by at least four people towering over him while another person films the Instagram live. The boy is seen on camera wearing a red shirt, with his arms crossed across his chest in an alert stance, flinching every time the man next to him moves his arm.
Barrington-Ward said he couldn’t stand by and do nothing after watching the horrifying video.
“If you saw that and you didn’t see anything wrong with that, you’re part of the problem,” he said.
So he reached out to the family to talk, with the help of Hope Giselle, a Black trans community organizer, and advocate based in Miami.
“About what had took place, about some of the challenges that she’s had as a single mother of eight and about some of the challenges raising a young Black queer child in poverty,” Barrington-Ward said.
“He expressed appreciation for the support but also made it clear that he wasn’t happy with what happened to him,” he added.
Atlanta Police confirm the young boy was removed from the home the day after the video and was placed in the care of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
“What I told him on the patio at his home is that you’re loved, we care for you, we got your back,” he said. “I apologized because we didn’t create enough safe spaces to prevent this from happening.”
The activist said the boy was emotionally stressed both from the experience and the idea of being removed from his home.
“So that he could see a version of himself in the future; so that, that it does get better and that it’s important to fight for your survival because there is a future for you,” he said.
Barrington-Ward and Hope Giselle have launched two fundraisers for the boy: an online fundraiser and a local drag show, set to take place this Thursday at My Sister’s Room in Atlanta.