The families of Natalee Holloway, Robyn Gardner and Baby Lisa Irwin didn’t have to fight for any media attention, perhaps because they all had one thing in common: blonde hair, blues eyes and pale skin. Once the media found out they were missing, every major news station was knocking down the doors of their families just to get an interview. Gardner has been missing for four months [at time of publication] and has received major media coverage because she went missing in Aruba, the same place Holloway went missing six years ago. Dateline gave Gardner a full segment, talking to her family and friends. With millions of people disappearing every day, minorities still struggle with getting attention. According to the National Crime Information Center, 232,827 African American were reported missing in 2010. How many of those individuals did we see on television?
The public plays a big role in finding a missing person. Once a newspaper or TV station runs the story, the public's task is to keep its eyes open. The first 48 hours of a missing person is critical. Once juveniles are reported missing, police begin searching immediately. After 24 hours, the police will start searching for those who are over 18 years old.
According to the National Crime Information Center, 514,780 juveniles went missing, and 18,754 were endangered.
Mishell-Nicole Green, 16, disappeared on September 8, 2011, at 5 p.m. The next day, her mother called the local police department to make a missing person’s report. “The local news stations here in New York will not show my missing daughter poster,” says Janell Johnson-Dash. “I call and email them all the time. No one will answer me back. I keep track of all my emails for proof.”
It’s been over three months since Green disappeared. Her family has been posting her missing person’s flyer around New York.
“We have been going around on foot posting her photo everywhere,” comments Green’s mother. “I was talking to the detective on her case the other day and he told me it’s not his job to push the media. He also said the case does have a media kit for the press.“
Having a missing child can become a financial burden.
“The family is struggling right now, and no one has reached out to help us,” says Dash. All the posters we made, we paid for with our own money.”
With efforts to get the word out to the public, the family went to a rally for missing black and Latino children, and made sure to cover the main street by Green’s high school.
“Her high school said they didn’t want to get involved, but they did print out some posters, says Denise Johnson, Green’s older sister. ”The posters were not good quality, so we could not use them.”
In 2008, Derrica N. Wilson and Natalie Wilson started Black and Missing Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization that focuses on missing minorities. The founders said the organization was established when a missing girl from their hometown failed to receive any media coverage from major networks.
Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. upload their photos of missing persons to their site. The site shows missing people each day from all around the United States. This fact may surprise some: “There are more African-American men missing than women,” says Derrica.
”We need to have more diversity in the news room, we need to take a stand,” continues Natalie.
Since the foundation was established, 60 people have been found and brought back to their loved ones.
Each time a person is reported missing, the Black and Missing Foundation does their research and adds the missing person’s information to their site, with someone different showing up with each new visit to the site. Running a non-profit organization can be a struggle, especially garnering financial support. Currently, Natalie and Derrica use their own funds to run the organization. “We want Black and Missing Foundation to become a household name,” says Natalie.
When the media decides to report a missing minority, many times the “negative” aspects of the missing person’s life are focused on. Further, their photos may never be on every major network, or on the cover of People magazine. The parents will never have to worry about camera crews leaving their front lawns.
On the other hand, the parents of non-minority missing persons often benefit from search parties and press conferences alerting the public on the progress being made by police, etc. Organizations like the Black and Missing Foundation aim to change this.
Today, many cities need to have emergency funds available for families of missing people. Also, major printing companies could make a huge difference by donating free printing service to the families. Families who cannot afford to print posters and other missing persons materials will have a financial struggle to deal with during an already difficult time. Further, the media needs to pay attention to all individuals who are reported missing. Focusing only one race leaves many families questioning: What’s wrong with my child?
For more information on Black and Missing, please visit www.blackandmissinginc.com.