Monday 22 September 2014

jacquereid

Why I Speak Up for Black and Missing

By: Jacque Reid

Originally published on The Root (http://www.theroot.com)  May 2011

As the new national spokeswoman for the Black & Missing Foundation, Jacque Reid wants to highlight the missing-persons cases not covered in the media.

The autopsy report came in last week. Sixteen-year-old Phylicia Barnes was murdered. Not that there was much doubt. But now it’s official. Police aren’t saying how or why, because it might hinder their investigation into who did this.

As a journalist, I was hit especially hard when Barnes went missing the end of last year, and confirmation that this child was murdered left me devastated. Maybe it was the joy, innocence and promise that I saw in the picture she took of herself and displayed on her Facebook page that struck such a chord in me.

Maybe it was the fact that the fun-loving, trouble-free honor student reminded me so much of another missing teen, Natalee Holloway — except that Barnes’ disappearance didn’t receive even a fraction of the media coverage that Holloway’s did. Or maybe it was the fact that this was not the first time a black family’s desperate cries for the media’s help to find a missing love one had gone mostly ignored. I’ve interviewed many of these families over the years, but I’ve always yearned to do more.

Now I have an opportunity to do just that with the Black & Missing Foundation, Inc. I accepted an invitation from the organization’s founders to be its national spokeswoman. With limited funds and recognition, BAMFI has taken on the tremendous task of helping families of color who have missing loved ones. That involves guiding families through the process of launching and maintaining a search; communicating with the police; publicizing the missing-persons case in the news media; and, far too often, helping families cope when their loved one is found dead.

“When we launched in 2008, people of color made up 30 percent of this country’s missing cases,” co-founder Derrica Wilson says. “Now that number has jumped to 40 percent. And most of those cases are black men. And you never hear anything about [them].”

Wilson is a former police officer who now works as a government investigator. Her co-founder, Natalie Wilson, is her sister-in-law and a public relations expert. Both are mothers with full-time jobs but still find time to try to save lives and support victims’ families, who often need counseling and social services.

“A big part of our job is raising money for these families. Phylicia Barnes’ father moved to Baltimore [where she went missing] and spent most of his days looking for her. That dedication makes it difficult for many to maintain a job,” says Natalie. “Other families need help with sudden burial costs.” While BAMFI did not donate money to Barnes’ family, it helped them coordinate television and print interviews, including one in Ebony magazine.

In addition to helping mothers and fathers of missing teens who might need assistance, BAMFI increases awareness for family members who are raising the children of missing persons. Such is the case with the children of Shaquita Yolanda Bell, who disappeared in 1996.

“Her parents are now raising her three daughters,” Natalie says. “They were preparing for retirement on a fixed income, and now they’re trying to raise three girls as well as prepare to send them to college.”

I asked about the impact of dealing with such tragedy on a daily basis. Derrica says that her time as a police officer helps her adjust and stay focused. But for Natalie, a mother of four, it is much more challenging.

“I am still coming to terms with the stories that I hear,” she says. “It is often very raw. I’ve become overly sensitive, and now I am well aware of where my kids are at all times.”

Jacque Reid is a broadcast journalist and a contributing editor to The Root. Listen to her on The Tom Joyner Morning Show, visit her at jacquereid.com and follow her on Twitter.

10 comments

  • Lawrence | December 27, 2011 at 9:35 am | Reply

    Just curious as to why the focus is on black families only. Is there a statistic(s) or factor(s) that you stand by to do this? Don’t take it the wrong way but it is a stand out, thank you

  • Natalie Wilson | December 27, 2011 at 10:06 am | Reply

    When we hear the term “missing persons”, we immediately conjure up images of Caylee Anthony, Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, and Natalee Holloway. But what about persons of color, with similar fates, such as Desmond Reed (Caylee Anthony), Constance Anderson (Laci Peterson), Stepha Henry (Natalee Holloway), and Shelton Sanders (Dail Dinwiddie) who did not get the same coverage?

    According to a report by the FBI, close to 40 percent of all missing persons in America are persons of color – an overwhelming number are black men. That number has increased by 10 percent since our inception.

    To combat this disparity Black and Missing Foundation, Inc (BAM FI) was created. We bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety.

    To learn more, please visit http://www.bamfi.org. Thank you.

    Natalie Wilson
    Co-Founder, Black and Missing Foundation, Inc

  • Stact | December 27, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Reply

    We must support Black Media and not wait until we are in a situation when we need them. They tell our stories when no one else will.

  • Renette Johnson | December 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Reply

    Just a note to say thank you. I have never experienced the pain of having a missing loved one, but I have experienced being estranged from my child. That is so painful, but I cannot imagine the pain and distress of not knowing.

    God bless you and strengthen you and the families you touch.

  • Natalie Wilson | December 27, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Reply

    We can’t keep silent. We have to tell the stories of our missing persons.

  • Kristy Funds | April 24, 2012 at 12:06 am | Reply

    http://o4lm.com/phoenixcoldon.html
    Phoenix Coldon Missing Since 12/18/2011 From St.Louis, Missouri. Location Last Seen: Phoenix was last seen leaving out of her driveway in her vehicle (1998 4-door Chevrolet Blazer with tinted windows: Missouri License Plate KE2S6V). If you have any leads or tips please visit http://o4lm.com/phoenixcoldon.html to submit your info thank you, and may god bless! (ALSO PLEASE LIKE PHOENIX COLDON’S MISSING ALERT ONCE YOU VISIT. TO SHARE WITH ALL OF YOUR FACEBOOK FRIENDS TO HELP INCREASE HER AWARENESS THANK YOU AND MAY GOD BLESS).

  • Lisa Fleury | May 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Reply

    Thank you for your mission. I learned of “Black and Missing” from your appearance on “The View”.

    As a caucasian woman I was saddened/shocked to learn that being black precluded one from extensive missing person investigations/awareness…until I saw it happen.

    On May 19th, 2013 a young working mother, Latrice Maze, failed to collect her child from day care in Grand Rapids, MI. Her family reported her missing and her plight was broadcast locally by media outlets. On April 27th,2013 a young working mother, Jessica Heeringa, was abducted at closing time from her place of employment, a gas station in Norton Shores, MI. National media outlets connected to this story and it was splashed over national morning news broadcasts.

    Gratefully, a local Anchor, Katherine Behrendt, of “Take Five Grand Rapids” (broadcast by WZZM 13 in Grand Rapids, MI) touched on this issue on her morning show. She questioned how national media chose their stories. I venture she was curious, as I, why Jessica Heeringa’s (white) was a national story and Latrice Maze (black) was not?

    WZZM 13 has been very good in ensuring the Latrice Maze investigation remains in the media. Especially now, with a national media presence in the area. They have run up-dates on both cases in the same broadcast.

    This letter is to report media reactions around the country. I hope it is useful to your organization. I would love to see you deliver your very important message in Grand Rapids, MI. Kathrine Behrendt and WZZM 13 may be a favorable media outlet.

  • JACQUE HILL | July 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Reply

    I WAS PLEASED TO SEE MY BROTHER JOHNNY LAMAR BROWN MISSING FROM MYRTLE BEACH SC ON THIS WEBSITE. HE IS STILL MISSING LIKE MANY OTHER AFRICAN AMERICANS. I HONESTLY THINK THAT A LOT OF RACISM HAS TO DO WITH HIM MISSING. WE WENT TO SOUTH CAROLINA AS A FAMILY AND CAME BACK WITH ONE MISSING ON AUG OF LAST YEAR. THIS WAS OUR FIRST FAMILY VACATION, ALTHOUGH MY MOTHER WHO INITIALLY DIDNT WANT TO GO, WENT ANYWAY. WE WILL BE RETURNING IN THE MONTH OF AUG. WE PRAY THAT WE RECEIVE SOME NEWS ABOUT HIM. WE WILL NEVER STOP GIVNIG UP ON HIM, AND WE PRAY FOR OTHERS AS WELL. I FEEL IF WE ALL COME TOGETHER AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT MISSING PEOPLE OF COLOR, OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD. THANK YOU

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