WYFF News 4
September 30, 2021
GREENVILLE, S.C. — The case of Gabby Petito has garnered nationwide attention and is sparking further discussion about other missing persons cases.
Gabby Petito went missing several weeks ago during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend, and her remains were later found in Wyoming.
Advocates of missing children and adults say the attention her case captured is great, but they want the same energy for the many other missing people around the country.
“Missing persons is not a black issue,” Black and Missing Foundation Co-founder Derrica Wilson said. “It’s not a white issue. It’s an American issue.”
Wilson is a Spartanburg native. She co-founded the national organization Black and Missing Foundation, inspired by the case of Tamika Huston, who went missing in Spartanburg in the early 2000s.
“No matter what their past history was, no matter their race, age, gender, we need to make sure their case is just as relevant,” Freedom Fighters Upstate SC Organizer Traci Fant said.
Fant is an advocate for missing children and adults in the Upstate. She says she often sees a disparity in the level of attention different missing persons cases get.
“When an African-American person or even a person who has struggled with addiction, who has struggled with being incarcerated,” Fant said. “When they go missing, it’s like, ‘Oh, they’ll be back.’”
Black and Missing Foundation says, according to the National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person and Unidentified Person statistics, there were 543,018 people missing in 2020.
“When it comes to missing adults, black or brown, their disappearances oftentimes are associated with some sort of criminal activity, so it really desensitizes and dehumanizes the fact that they are missing,” Wilson said.
Wilson says many people are deemed runaways, impacting the level of attention their cases get.
“I think we should get rid of that classification altogether because we do know that they’re missing,” Wilson said. “That’s number one, but we also know human trafficking is a huge issue that’s happening on U.S. soil.”
Wilson says she’s currently working with the father of Daniel Robinson, a South Carolina man who has been missing since June and was last seen in Buckeye, Arizona.
“He created a GoFundMe so he could hire a private investigator,” Wilson said. “So he could hire a search team.”
Advocates say they’re trying to change what they call an “unspoken criteria” around missing persons.
“Look at it from a case-by-case scenario or a case-by-case basis, but view everyone as important, regardless of their status,” Fant said.
Advocates say community support can often solve these cases.
Wilson says the Black and Missing Foundation is working with HBO on a series highlighting a number of people missing around the nation.
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