March 17, 2022
Natalie and Derrica Wilson, co-founders of the 14-year running Black and Missing Foundation are the sisters-in-law behind HBO’s Black and Missing. The show dives into the racial disparity of missing persons of color and the lack of law enforcement work to find them. These missing persons are pushed to the back while White missing persons become mainstream media headlines.
The Black and missing foundation started around an issue. Most people don’t know that 40% of all persons missing are of color, it’s eye opening and disheartening. How could we not use our professions? I’m in media and public relations (PR), Derrica is in law enforcement. Those are the two profession experiences needed to bring awareness to this issue, and to help these families. So, how could we be selfish not using our own resources?
I’ve been in PR for close to 15 years and I’ve been able to get families on talk shows and local community shows, just helping them bring awareness to their missing loved ones. The unknown is the most difficult parts for family. They don’t know where their missing loved one is. News and media coverage is so vital, because it alerts the community that someone is missing, and we can all spring into action and be vigilant and look for them. There’s also a trickle down effect, where it puts pressure on law enforcement to add resources to the case.
Why is it important for law enforcement to classify someone as missing versus a runaway?
There have been many systemic issues surrounding law enforcement in the minority community. They’ve been bringing their stereotypes and biases into the equation. They aren’t taking these cases seriously, and they aren’t adding resources to it which really hinders finding the missing individual. So, it’s so important to classify our children correctly. They’re not all running away. And if you are classified as a runaway, you do not receive the Amber Alert and you definitely don’t receive any media coverage at all. We’ve seen an uptick in sex trafficking cases and these children are classified as runaways.
Be mindful that [law enforcement] are the first line to the news media. So, if they are classifying a child as a runaway they’re not taken seriously, the community isn’t taken seriously. We have this perception that she or he is “fast” and they’re getting what they deserve. No, these are children and we know that within 24 to 48 hours of being on the street, they’re lured into sex trafficking.
We need to look at what they are running away from if they are running away. And ultimately, what are they running away to? They have to survive and the pimps and pedophiles know that they need safety, food, and security. So, they have to sell their bodies. They’re being raped; a child cannot consent to sex. We really have to take a closer look at the classification, which impacts the case with media involvement and have the community take an action.
Photo credit: Rolling Out