Black & Missing: Giving Voice to the Lost
Echoes of Empowerment Magazine
Candance L. Greene
April 23, 2009
In June 2005, cultural reporter and journalist Kristal Brent Zook published an article in Essence that broke the dam of silence on the media’s blatant disregard for the lives of missing persons of color. The article, “Have You Seen Her: How the Media Ignores Missing African American Women,” was published a month into the media maelstrom surrounding Natalie Holloway, the high school student who disappeared on a graduation trip to Aruba. From that article came stories on major television networks discussing their indifference to reporting cases about missing minorities, but four years later, our community continues to ask, “Who is looking for us?”
Black and Missing, Inc. aims to answer that question.
The need for Black and Missing (BAM) became apparent for Founder and President Derrica Wilson while serving as a police officer in Falls Church, VA. Wilson was alarmed when she noticed a disturbing trend amongst fellow law enforcement. “They were classifying missing children of color as ‘runaways’ so they would not have to issue Amber Alert,” says Wilson, “and they automatically connected missing adults to crime.” As a member of the force, she understood early exposure to missing persons cases increased the likelihood of that person being found. “Minorities equal 65% of total non-family abductions, but, according to the mass media and the American psyche, the face of the missing is Caucasian.”
The vision for BAM came to Wilson while in conversation with her husband in January 2008. She’d known from the moment she accepted Christ in 1996 that God would use her to help people. On that evening in January, her passion for law enforcement and her life’s purpose collided. In a matter of minutes, God gave her the name of the organization and its three-pronged objective. Four month later, Wilson, along with co-founder, Public Relations Director and sister-in-law Natalie Wilson, launched Black and Missing, Inc. as a free, web-based portal, whose mission was to “maximize exposure of missing persons of color to ensure they receive the awareness needed to be reunited with their families.”
Since then, the sisters-in-law have been working to inform law enforcement entities, as well as churches, colleges, community groups, and a variety of organizations in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area about BAM. The women were interviewed on the Russ Parr Morning Show, NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin, and were featured in a host of local newspapers and television magazine programs in the Mid-Atlantic region. In addition, one of their cases was the focal point of one episode on the television show America’s Most Wanted.
As a member of law enforcement, President Derrica Wilson understands that people of color either don’t trust police or believe law enforcement don’t take their cases seriously. BAM aims to be the entity that bridges the gap between community and the law. In the year since it’s inception, BAM has over 200 names of missing persons in their database. Sixteen of the missing persons featured on their website have been found.
They have also made efforts to partner with law enforcement clearinghouses nationwide, as well as in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia areas, with an eventual goal of establishing satellite Black and Missing, Inc. offices in every major city in the United States. The founders also plan to create their own re-enactment show, similar to America’s Most Wanted, specifically created to feature missing persons of color. “We are not trying to dishonor other families,” says PR Director Natalie Wilson, “we just want to provide our community an equal playing field.”
For more information, to make a donation or to volunteer, contact Black and Missing, Inc., at 188.8.131.52.
Photo credit: Black and Missing Foundation