The toddler in this 'sweet' viral photo is actually the victim of a police brutality case

The subject of police brutality has been part of public discourse for years, and since the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd, it's been under a particularly bright spotlight. But even with ample examples we can point to, sometimes a story still manages to stun with its horrifying blatancy. This is one of those times.

The headline here is that the city of Philadelphia was just ordered to pay a Black mother $2 million in damages for the beating she endured and trauma she and her 2-year-old experienced at the hands of the Philadelphia police in October of 2020. But there's so much more to the story than that.

Here's the background:


According to NBC10 Philadelphia, nursing aide Rickia Young was driving home in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 2020, after picking up her 16-year-old nephew in West Philadelphia, when she unintentionally drove into a protest over the police killing of Walter Wallace, Jr. (Wallace was shot and killed by police after his family called 911 because he was having a mental health episode and they wanted him to get medical help.)

The police ordered Young to turn back, but as she started to do a 3-point turn, police swarmed her car and smashed her windows out with batons. According to Young's attorney, police pulled Young and her nephew from the car and struck them. Then police pulled Young's 2-year-old from the car and took him away, telling her they were taking him "to a better place."

Young was bleeding and had swelling on her face, body, and trachea. She was able to call her mother, who went to find the 2-year-old. She eventually found him in the back of a police car four miles away, without his hearing aids and with glass shards in his carseat.

So we can agree that's all bad, right? Well, here's where it goes even farther south.

Two days after the incident, the National Fraternal Order of Police—the largest police union in the U.S.—shared a photo of one of the police officers at the scene, holding Young's son, with the following text:

"This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness. The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.

We are not your enemy. We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy."

The irony would be hilarious if it weren't so horrifying.

The post was taken down within a day, but not before it had been shared widely. The following day, the police union wrote that the union "learned of conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer and immediately took the photo and caption down."

No apology. No mention of what had really occurred. No acknowledgment of the trauma that boy had endured watching the police smash the windows of his car before beating his mother in front of him.

According to NBC10, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said that she and the law enforcement community "demand that officers exhibit the utmost professionalism, decorum, and poise while interacting with members of the public." Two officers were ultimately fired over the incident, and 14 additional officers faced disciplinary hearings.

"The behavior that occurred during the interaction between Rickia Young, her nephew, her son, and some of the officers on the scene violated the mission of the Philadelphia Police Department," Outlaw said in a statement. "As a matter of fact, the ability for officers and supervisors on the scene to diffuse the situation was abandoned, and instead of fighting crime and the fear of crime, some of the officers on the scene created an environment that terrorized Rickia Young, her family, and other members of the public."

Hence, the $2 million payment from the city.

Philadelphia Reaches $2M Settlement With, Rickia Young, Mother Who Was Beaten By Police During Unres www.youtube.com

The Philadelphia Inquirer shared a detailed account of what occurred that night, and it's worth a read. Again, the blatancy of the brutality and injustice alone is enough, but to have the photo of Young's son that night used as pro-police fodder by the nation's largest police union just added insult to literal injury. And the response from the union was pretty much the definition of "inadequate."

No one can undo what Young and her son experienced, but the firing of the officers and the payout from the city is at least something resembling accountability.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."