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New law creates California-wide alert to help find missing Black children, women

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The Sacramento Bee
Darrell Smith
October 9, 2023

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will create a new statewide alert system said to be the first in the nation specific to help find missing Black children and young Black women.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill, Senate Bill 673, officials announced Monday creating the Ebony Alert.

It works similarly to the Amber Alert system, which activates electronic highway signs to post information about the missing person in a coordinated effort to locate the individual. The Ebony Alert, which will be used for missing Black youth ages 12-25, becomes law Jan. 1.

“California is taking bold and needed action to locate missing Black children and Black women in California,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, in a statement announcing the bill signing.

“Our Black children and young women are disproportionately represented on the lists of missing persons,” Bradford said, calling the disparity “heartbreaking and painful.”

Local law enforcement would notify the California Highway Patrol if they deemed necessary to find the lost person, activating the alert. Bradford said the new law also spurs media to help spread the information on air and online.

“This is a great first step to mitigating the racial inequities when it comes to Black women and children when they go missing,” bill sponsor Rick L. Callender, president of the NAACP California Hawaii State Conference, said in a statement.

Nearly four in 10 missing children in the U.S. are Black, according to the Black and Missing Foundation, a nonprofit that bring awareness to missing persons of color across the country. About the same percentage of sex trafficking victims are Black women, report cites.

Compounding the crisis, the Black and Missing Foundation says, is the misclassification of missing Black youths as “runaways.” Black youth are disproportionately labeled this way when compared to lost white youths who are determined to be “missing.” The labeling costs missing Black youths crucial media attention and Amber Alert notifications, the foundation said.

“The Ebony Alert can change this,” Bradford said in the statement, ensuring that “vital resources and information are given so we can bring home missing Black children and women in the same way we search for any missing child and missing person.”

Photo credit: The Sacramento Bee

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