If I Went Missing, Would You Look For Me?

“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.

34 thoughts on “If I Went Missing, Would You Look For Me?

  • So glad you wrote about this. I remember learning a few years ago that black people and indigenous people make up a disproportionally large number of missing people in N. America. Especially black and indigenous women who are often targeted by sex traffickers.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Hi I am one of the Executive Producers and Directors of the series. Thank you for for this incredible piece about the series, the foundation and their work. Just want you to know that I see you, I am grateful for you and I would absolutely look for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I recognize your name! Thank you kindly. I appreciate what you and your team are doing to bring this organization to the forefront and shed light on this serious issue. I appreciate you!


  • Thanks so much for posting this so well written and delivered with this powerful video so heartbreaking. It’s beyond comprehension for me and I’m just so sad and sorry!!! I would come looking for you!!!! Unfortunately, I’m a little far but I have Not doubt you have a huge network that love you and would too. Thank God for these 2 woman standing up and speaking out and leading the way. 💖🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  • Girl this was excellent! First off, yes we will come looking for you.
    Secondly, we as black women are forgotten about. I was reading about a case of young black girls being kidnapped and police just let it go. They were being held in a basement while being rapped, beat and starved. I was so furious and couldn’t help but wonder; what it they were white!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hell yes! I would. This is so infuriating and it does and doesn’t matter simultaneously, ‘the why’, because- It is in line with every aspect of disdain/complicity in the disparities, that exists in black and brown communities. The larger questions loom. Important to have these kind of stories brought into the light. Good post. 👍🏻

        Liked by 1 person

  • I’m a radio rather than TV person but I hope a lot more people choose to watch this show and not just be entertained. There’s a podcast called Through the Cracks that I discovered through NPR that talks about this crisis. We can’t keep living this way, and I appreciate you writing about it here.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I hope this is on a channel I can watch. I don’t have HBO. Why can’t it be on CBS? It is so true. There are regularly missing white people on TV that it makes one feel that colored people are never missing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish it was on a local channel and heavily syndicated as well, but HBO took on the docuseries and that’s the host. To be honest, I’m not sure CBS or NBC or ABC would host an entire docuseries about People of Color who go missing, especially mostly Black people.


  • You make a valid point, trE. So many people don’t even realize this is a very real problem. It’s only made that much more troubling because not many shed light on it. I’m hoping this series will open some eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope so too, Sarah. When I watched the series, I was actually gobsmacked by the recent numbers. Of course, I’d known people of color go missing longer and in higher numbers or are often labeled as “runaways”, but I hadn’t known how significant those numbers were and how many cases are still ongoing or now closed. It’s just very sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  • This is an issue in Australia too. Indigenous people seem to go missing for longer. It’s beginning to change with a recent kidnapping and people of all colours are demanding even-handedness in news coverage and searching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s good! Fighting for what’s right needs to be the norm. It’s sad it has to be this way, but everyone deserves the same kind of care and concern in these situations.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Alarming, disturbing, and heartbreaking. An important share, trE. Thank you. I don’t have HBO, but I appreciate seeing that they are producing important shows, like this one, and that there are dedicated people, like Natalie and Derrica Wilson, making a difference, every day.

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