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.

YouTube

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.

Coming Home to My Sexuality Was the Gift That Saved Me

I am Tremaine. I am no one else.

Photo of the author enhanced with Comica app. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

I believe, as human beings, we can be almost anything outside of society’s perfect little boxes for us, but when we’ve ascertained who we actually are, this discovery can be lifesaving. I say this so you are aware, like many LGBTQ living and breathing individuals, I struggled with coming out and staying inside the closet. It wasn’t until three years ago, I suddenly felt safe saying to my family and friends who were not in the know, “I am bisexual.”

At age thirty-eight, this was my celebration. It was my tea-time, so to speak, and like it or not, I was ready to take my seat at the table just as I am, and nothing more. Coming home to me was a gift that kept me alive. It was a gift that handed me the opportunity to be a voice to and for others who have the same struggle.

I walked through the door and never looked back.


I am who I was created to be.

There isn’t a hair on my head that doesn’t define me. I have black, sandy red, and gray strands assembling themselves in order and streaking in just the way they are meant to do. I have laugh and frown lines and crow’s feet and extra weight settling around my middle, but I have grown to appreciate all these things.

They show I have lived. They display I also have more of that same living to do.

Before, when it was easier/safer to remain quiet about who I am, there was always a nagging, unsatisfied feeling. I felt both trapped and gutted at the same time. Trapped because I come from a long line of devout Christians on my father’s side. Gutted because there was a person inside me who was dying just a little each day and needed to be set free. Every single day, I had to connect with both sides and silence whichever one became louder than the other.

I assure you, this is no way to live.

What saved me after coming out was the love I continued to receive from my father (who is an Episcopalian elder/preacher, by the way), siblings, cousins, friends, and my mom. Many had already known without me uttering a word, especially my mom.

I hadn’t known, in her past, she was fighting battles on my behalf with her own family about their “image of me” regarding my sexuality. I hadn’t known she was practically saying to them, “My child’s sexuality is none of your business. If she’s happy, this is all that matters to me.” With a few expletives and hands thrown into the mix as well — because my mom has always been a person unafraid to physically get down if she has to.

I’m grateful for my tribe. They are the reason it has been easier to breathe being fully who I am. I cannot be anyone else. Not anymore.


Home is where a breath of fresh air is.

I have learned, on my journey, this body is my tower. If I keep it well-oiled, fueled, and maintained, it will continue to house me securely. I am home in this body. I am loved in this body. I am one with this body.

I recall the moment I first knew I was “different” from my playmates — I was eight years old. I knew what made little girls different from little boys regarding gender specificity, and I knew I liked both boys and girls. I knew I couldn’t choose. I also knew, in the eyes of the adults who raised me, I shouldn’t say anything about my discovery.

It had been frowned upon and preached about as the damning ways in which God could thwart me.

This confused me — if God created me and all things created by God are “good,” then why wasn’t I . . . good? Why would God oppose me? I was not the type of child to challenge my elders, so I snuck around to do the things I wanted to do and did a substantial amount of “sneaking” well into my early 30s.

Now, there is no need to sit the people I choose to entertain intimately or in a loving and consenting adult relationship on the sideline. I can play alongside them in the game of life. Coming home to my sexuality gave me the fresh air I should have been breathing decades ago.


When you ask me who I am, I will tell you.

The one thing I carry with me since I came out to my all-knowing mother is her phrase, “If anyone asks you if you’re bisexual, you better damn well tell them you are.” And I do. I stick my chest out a bit, breathe in a few puffs of air, and I say who I am — proudly.

Does it get any easier? Truthfully, yes. The fear is always there in the pit of my belly because being bisexual still has an air of taboo about it, but I don’t deny it. And I don’t change the subject anymore.

Being at home with one’s sexuality and comfortable in the skin I drag around is a place I have longed to be for years. It is the gift that saved me. I am thankful coming home to myself took place before my dying days.

There are so many of us who hold on to our “secrets” until the grave slips itself around our decaying bodies.

I am here. This is who I am. You won’t get anyone else.


Originally published in Prism & Pen via Medium.

The Babies Are My Energy

It’s amazing how much of my brothers I see in their children. Joshua sent me the photo you see above of him and Sarai, and I instantly thought about how much my niece looks like my younger brother when he was a toddler. He was BAD. OMG! Joshua was such a handful. I am certain I had high blood pressure dealing with him while he was growing up. Lol. Thyrie looks so much like TJ when he was a baby. I think back to the days of him growing up and I get a little emotional. We’ve always been close. He’s the brother everyone says, “OMG, y’all look just alike” about, and I just nod and smile.

Me and TJ, about 5 years ago.

Their children are my energy. I push myself so that I’ll one day reconnect with all of them. I moved away from home when I was eighteen years old. Truth be told, I was running away from things I didn’t care for and wanted to be far away from, and I just kept running.

But receiving photos of the beautiful additions to my family’s bloodline and being so far away from them all gets to me sometimes. I am missing so much. I breathe in and dream of these little ones. I breathe out and ponder on their whereabouts and well-being.

When everything seems to be branding me with anger and pain, I think about them, and my energy is renewed.