“African Americans remain missing four times longer than White Americans”
I have been watching the HBO docuseries Black and Missing, which follows two sisters-in-law, Natalie and Derrica Wilson, founders of the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., as they lend or give voices to the families and friends of missing persons of color. Black and Missing is “the four-part documentary series, by multiple Emmy® winner Geeta Gandbhir and award-winning documentarian, journalist, author and activist Soledad O’Brien.” That there even has to be a foundation to draw awareness to the numbers of missing persons who go unnoticed, underappreciated, or acknowledged should be enough to cause one’s stomach to turn.
But I am glad the organization exists. I am glad these Black women exist.
Their task is often defeating and exhausting, yet Natalie and Derrica Wilson make it their business to put in this type of work. They are the faces of an organization that cares about and will help fight to bring missing people of color home or design a way to get closure for the families left to ponder about and grieve their disappearances.
“African Americans remain missing four times longer than White Americans.” — Natalie Wilson
When you see that number before you, how does it make you feel? What builds in your system — in your soul — knowing African Americans can go on missing four times longer than White Americans? How does it shape you? We can go over many scenarios and we can hash out what the reasons could be, but one thing is clear — we have to fight so much harder to have our voices heard and engage with the media and public servants at higher rates just to get even a morsel of coverage for each person of color who goes missing.
The following trailer is just a snippet of what the duo is doing — has done. It’s an introduction to their efforts and how far they will go until actual change occurs.
The women — who they are and what they do.
Black And Missing pulls back the curtain to explore how systemic behaviors and attitudes stem from centuries of deeply rooted racism. The series also exposes the stark disparity in the media coverage of white and black missing persons. — Black and Missing
Derrica Wilson is a former law enforcement officer who climbed the ranks and worked as a deputy sheriff and also became the first African American female officer to work for the City of Falls Church Police Department in Falls Church, Virginia. Her experience as a public safety officer, recruiter, and background administrator has given her the tools she needs to interact with the public, assist in city-wide searches and canvassing of neighborhoods, and reach out to various police officers and detectives for assistance.
She is the Co-Founder and CEO of the organization and operates it with her sister-in-law, Natalie Wilson, since its inception in 2008.
Natalie Wilson has a background in public relations and devotes her time to interviewing families, maintaining pertinent outreach, and connecting families with various media outlets for the appropriate coverage for their missing family members. Her son had been wrongfully jailed based on a false report by a police officer and served nearly two years before his release. Natalie is no stranger to injustice and gives her expertise in any way she can to further catapult the organization in the right direction.
She is the Co-Founder and COO of Black and Missing Foundation, Inc.
Having these two Black women at the forefront of an organization that exhausts all of its resources to seek the recovery of hundreds of missing persons of color makes it easier to sleep at night. They are fighting to keep families’ voices alive. They are the center point of hope and undying faith. With their help, many families and friends have connected with their loved ones or have been given closure to open or cold cases that should have continued to be worked.
I could be one of these missing persons of color — my nieces, my nephews, any of my loved ones.
As a Black, bisexual, single woman living in the South, I have pondered about my death at the hands of another, or if I were kidnapped or taken into violent custody — who would look for me . . . Would I have any avengers? Would my family and friends be able to communicate effectively with the media to ensure my story is told? How long would the authorities search for me before they “give up” or “call it a day”? Would I even be important enough to them to conduct an adequate search?
Taking it a step further, suppose I was on the outside looking in and one of my nieces, nephews, or younger or older cousins goes missing — what then? I know myself and my ways . . . I would pull at every resource within my reach to pursue getting efficient assistance. I would lose my voice shouting throughout their neighborhoods. I would use up every cent in my bank account, creating and printing flyers, trying to get television interviews and media coverage.
There is no doubt I would endure many sleepless nights. No doubt.
And is this not how it should be? But would it not be best for the authorities to have these tasks unloaded on them as one would think — a missing person — should be recovered by those employed to protect and serve?
I felt their pain.
The families in this docuseries were open enough to share their stories — their pain. Listening to them shifted something within me. My heart ached. I felt tears streaming down my face and could not stop them. I wanted to single-handedly reach out to all of them and embrace them for what they have endured and all the pain that is ahead for them, too. But you cannot hug away worry. You cannot hug away the depths of pain. There is no antidote to reverse the various emotions many of them are feeling because of their significant losses.
However, with the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. at the ready, there is light at the end of the tunnel for people of color. Derrica and Natalie Wilson make it their business to serve their community and help families lasso in resolutions.
It is not a safe world out there for dozens of people — for anyone, really. And times are getting much harder. To think about the possibilities of being neglected and forgotten if I were to go missing is another sliver of anxiety I do not need — do not want. But it is there, settling in the darkest spaces of my mind, and I cannot ignore it.
If I went missing, would you look for me?
Originally published in Age of Empathy via Medium.
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