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    Posted July 20, 2013 by
    Washington, District of Columbia

    Black and Missing Foundation sheds more light on finding missing people of color

    Can you imagine having a member of your family or a close friend go missing? What would you do? What are the odds of finding that person? Well, if you live in an underserved community then chances may appear to be bleak. It has been a well documented fact that in minority communities the awareness of their missing persons do not receive the same amount of attention as the white and wealthy communities. Did you know missing minority children make up 65 percent of all non-family abductions, with 42 percent being African-American (a total of 24,444 missing persons), and 23 percent Hispanic (13,386)? Also, the FBI reports about 40% (265, 683) of the total 661,593 missing persons last year were people of color.

    Pretty startling, right?

    Well, one organization whose sole mission is "to bring awareness to missing persons of color" is the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. Derrica N. Wilson, Co-Founder, President and CEO, and Natalie Wilson, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer founded the organization in 2008. It works with families and local officials in creating public awareness campaigns that include using a variety of media to help locate missing persons of color for severely underserved communities.

    Derrica and Natalie shares with us what sparked them to create Black and Missing Inc, what to do if your loved one goes missing, ways the community can pull together, and how city officials can help close the disparity gap between the haves and the have nots.

    [JTH] What made you decide to create an organization like Black and Missing Inc?

    [BAM] When we hear the term “missing persons”, we immediately conjure up images of Caylee Anthony, Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, Dail Dinwiddie, and Natalee Holloway. But what about persons of color, with similar fates, such as Desmond Reed (Caylee Anthony), Constance Anderson (Laci Peterson), Stepha Henry (Natalee Holloway), and Shelton Sanders (Dail Dinwiddie) who did not get the same coverage?

    Due to the disparity in awareness and coverage, the public is misled in believing that the typical victims of abductions and kidnappings are white and female. However, according to a recent report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), close to 40 percent of all missing persons in America are persons of color - an overwhelming number are black men.

    The disappearance of Tamika Huston inspired the founders to form Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. Tamika disappeared around May 27, 2004 from Spartanburg, SC - Derrica’s hometown. Tamika’s disappearance spawned controversy about the media coverage of missing people and how cases get national attention. Right after Tamika went missing, Natalee Holloway disappeared and her disappearance received local and national news coverage.

    At that time, research indicated that 30 percent of all missing persons were of color. That number has now increased to 40 percent- and continues to grow.

    [JTH] How many cases are reported to Black and Missing Inc. each year?

    [BAM] We receive hundreds of reports each year, from around the country, about missing persons of color.

    [JTH] How many missing persons are found each year through Black and Missing Inc.?

    [BAM] Since our inception, our efforts have led to the recovery of 128 individuals.

    [JTH] After reporting a person missing, what are the next steps that should be taken?

    [BAM] A number of things should be done after reporting a loved one missing, such as:

    - Conduct a telephone search. Phone friends or acquaintances that may have information about where the missing person is. Write all of the information down in your journal.

    - If you find out any additional information from telephone inquiries pass it on to police.

    - Distribute a flyer with a photograph of your missing loved one around your community. You can download a template at www.bamfi.org.

    - Tell all necessary people about the disappearance of your missing loved one (may include the employer, school, bank and doctor).

    - If it applies to your situation, make arrangements for the payment of your missing loved one’s mortgage, rent or bills. You may require legal advice on how to proceed.

    - To assist with this process, we have posted an extensive “Missing Person Checklist” to assist families.

    [JTH] Why do you feel there is such a disparity when it comes to missing person efforts within the black community?

    [BAM] There is a disparity in the coverage of missing persons of color for a number of reasons, such as:
    - Classification of our missing. Many are classified as being involved in some form of criminal activity. Therefore, that deviant behavior is seen as the norm.
    - Our children are classified as runaways
    - Lack of diversity in the newsroom
    - Poverty or lower socioeconomic standing

    [JTH] How can city officials begin to close this gap?

    [BAM] City officials can begin to close the gap by:
    - Expanding laws, such as the Phylicia Barnes law, passed in Maryland, in each state. This law aims at finding missing children quicker.
    - Ensuring that law enforcement is properly trained when handling missing persons cases/Offering sensitivity training

    [JTH] What should the family or friends of a missing person do in the event they do not get immediate cooperation from the police department?

    [BAM] As an advocate for the missing, we are here to provide help and support to families. Derrica, a veteran police officer, often times walk families through the reporting process. Hold law enforcement accountable.

    [JTH] What does it take for police departments to issue an Amber Alert?

    [BAM] The Department of Justice criteria:
    - There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
    - The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
    - There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
    - The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.

    However, many minority children do not receive the Amber Alert because they are classified as runaways. That’s not necessarily the case.

    [JTH] Can you please describe the kind of activities the local community can do to find a missing child?

    [BAM] 1. Unity (come forward with information; instead of the "no snitching"); develop Neighborhood Watch Programs by partnering with the police; education (understanding the process in the event that something like this happens); communication with your children/grandchildren/etc; having up-to-date photos.

    2. Raising awareness is key in finding our missing or providing much needed closure for their families. We strongly believe that someone knows something. We ask the community to assist us in raising awareness by subscribing to BAM FI's social media initiatives on Facebook and Twitter.

    3. Take a look at the profiles in your area (www.bamfi.org). Do you recognize anyone or have any information about the case.

    [JTH] In the event a person is not found, how long does the case stay open?

    [BAM] At BAM FI, the case will remain open until the missing individual is found or there is closure for the families.

    [JTH] What should family and loved ones do to continue their search after the police stop investigations?

    [BAM] It is a traumatic experience when a loved one goes missing; however, we ask families to never give up HOPE.

    On birthday’s anniversaries, updates in the case and/or special events, we encourage families to hold candlelight vigils to keep their missing loved one in the forefront.

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