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Black & Missing: Serving the Community of Color Missing Persons

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The San Diego: Voice & Viewpoint
Kimetha Hill
August 4, 2011

Every day 2,300 people are reported missing in this country. Forty percent of the missing persons population is comprised of people of color. The Black & Missing Foundation, founded in 2008 works to help solve cold cases and related incidents of persons of color who are missing.

The foundation is a national organization that focuses on all persons of color. Though Black & Missing is located on the east coast, it serves a national audience.

“Our focus and goal is to provide an even playing field for all missing persons. We do not turn away any cases and we are not trying to dishonor the national community, but we feel that equal representation is important,” Natalie emphasized. “We want to reunite and provide closure for families.”

A non-profit organization based out of Baltimore, Maryland, the Black & Missing Foundation was founded by President, Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson, Director of Public Relations. Derrica and Natalie Wilson explained the purpose and need for the foundation, “We felt missing persons of color were not getting the exposure that their White counterparts were receiving. The foundation was founded in May of 2008, a short time after the Natalee Holloway case was garnered so much national attention. Simultaneously, there was a young Black woman, Tamika Huston, who went missing in Spartanburg, South Carolina. While Natalee Holloway’s story flooded the news, the family of Tamika Huston struggled to garner media attention.”

Sadly, this story is far too common as at that time missing persons of color represented around 30% of all missing persons cases. However, White missing persons were disproportionately shown across media channels, while people of color were rarely, if ever, given any media exposure.”

Research shows that missing persons of color embody about 40% of all missing persons cases, though that number is rising,” cited Derrica.

The media plays a large role in attention given to cases of missing persons and Derrica and Natalie shared insight on the disparity between cases of Caucasians who go missing as compared to cases of people of color, “There needs to be more diversity in newsroom. Diversity can give precedence into what stories are exposed and the level of exposure. As well, the police department shares the story with media, which also determines which cases are exposed.”

Natalie went on to state, “The community needs to speak up, however, there is this “no snitching” mentality and we need to get rid of that. We need to demand that we get equal justice so that our missing persons get equal time.”

“We also need to follow up once a report has been filed. There are cases where families have filed police reports; however those reports were never formally filed by the police. Therefore it is important to follow up on those initial reports,” added Derrica.

The Black & Missing Foundation has a good relationship with police department.

“We are a fairly new organization and we have an excellent rapport with the District of Columbia Police Chief and Assistant Police Chief. We work together with the police department as they inform us of missing persons cases,” explained Natalie.

A good working relationship is essential to solving cases and the Black & Missing Foundation successfully bridges communication between law enforcement and families with missing persons.

“We work with families to be an advocate and mediator with the police department. We’re seen as a resource for the community and the police department.”

For families dealing with missing relatives, there are important steps to take on the path to solving that case, “You must report your loved one missing. If you know something isn’t right, go to the police. When you file a report make sure to have a recent photo of the person missing as time is of the essence,” Natalie and Derrica emphasized.

“Provide police and media with as much information as possible. It’s also important to communicate and get to know your neighbors. As parents, we must talk to our children and listen; children have so much to say, and sometimes as parents we overshadow our children with parental rights,” they emphasized.

“Also, it’s important to be involved in schools and churches in your community. When one of your neighbors is dealing with a missing loved one, help them with searches and pass out fliers. Anything is better than sitting and waiting for something to happen.”

For cases of missing persons to be solved, Black & Missing urges that it is important that people trust law enforcement. Families and friends of missing persons must get a case number and follow up on those reports.

President of Black & Missing, Derrica Wilson is a former police officer, having worked with the Arlington County Police Department and the City of Falls Church Police Department. Natalie Wilson is the public affairs specialist for the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue in addition to her role as co-founder and director of public relations for Black & Missing.

For additional information on the Black & Missing Foundation, please visit http://www.blackandmissinginc.com.

Photo credit: Charlotte Fu

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