“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.
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 DepartmentinFalls 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.
This nation, as I see it, is going to Hell in a handbasket. It will be carried by the same naysayers who believe the all-knowing and loving God is for their hypocritical ways and do not oppose their actions. The God you serve is not the God I serve. My God is more than likely weeping as he watches His children carry on like fools, senselessly taking the lives of others, running amok without fair cause, and denying human beings basic rights.
You are playing a flute that holds no sound, yet you want me to listen. Where is your melody? How does it benefit me? When will it actually do something worthwhile?
We elected a president who, when it all falls down, has sided with a judicial system that purposes a select few. He has said out of his mouth, to respect the system, to acknowledge what has been done peacefully. For real? Like, for real . . . real? Acknowledge a system that has NEVER worked in anyone of color’s favor? Acknowledge a system and respect it that could not bring forth a verdict that actually makes sense?
It is 2021, yet we are reliving days of Antebellum. There is no escaping this. This is what they want. And to get to where they intend to seek refuge, they will continue to whittle us down like pieces of wood.
I’m so tired of people making excuses for America. America has ALWAYS been this way. She isn’t changing. Her ways are not so distant from the 1800s–they’re only slightly different.
I walked through my neighborhood today, still seething in anger from an unjust system. I tried to remain calm. I tried to look to Jernee for some semblance of peace. But I found it . . . in the last leaves of autumn.
**I don’t intend to argue or go back and forth with anyone about my thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I know what I’ve lived, witnessed, been forced to do, and experienced. Racism is still alive and well. I don’t need anyone to tell me what is and isn’t.
Young, Black students share their oratory strengths in a powerful message
What do you think about when you reflect upon the message delivered in the famed “I Have a Dream” speech by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Does it cross your mind that we would be fighting for the same wishes, wants, and necessities shared within its lines? Do you sit and wonder about “how far we have come” and “how far we still have to go”? Where do you go? Where does your mind take you when you hear the depth and breadth of his voice as those words were uttered on August 28, 1963?
I can tell you what it does to me — how it shifts the very essence of who I am. How it enforces the fears I hold within me regarding the America of today. I feel no safer today than I did ten years ago. In fact, I am more on edge in the year of our Lord, 2021, than I have ever been. If I had to guess, I would venture in saying I am sure the late Dr. King would have never envisioned this America fifty-eight years later. In essence, it is the same America he was brutally killed in while trying to bring about a massive change in a peaceful way.
We have come a mighty long way. We have a mighty long way to go.
The things that make America beautiful to me can be easily overshadowed by the bloodstained countrysides, history of enslavement, police brutality, lack of financial support and assistance for those below and slightly above the poverty line, anyone voicing All Lives Matter, constant display of inequality, and now, the alarming rates at which Black people and People of Color are becoming infected and dying from the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
It is the same America where the very mention of “reparations” makes those in favor of white supremacy flinch and toot up their noses.
Is this the America someone thinks about when they dream of a better place?
I highly doubt it.
My sister Bless and a group of her colleagues at Clayton State University, located in Morrow, Georgia, created a video based on the “I Have a Dream” speech, and in it they share what they dream about for the America they want. They express themselves with vigor, intelligence, worthiness, and poise. They display exactly what it means to voice your opinion without being offensive but with a stern delivery.
These are the faces of the future. These are the hearts that are breaking as they watch the same America Dr. King watched, the same America I have watched, and the same America many others before me died fighting for but did not gain anything from it.
“In a sense, we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.” A check we know may be counted void or stopped upon seeking its payment. A check that would never ever be enough for the pain endured, the lives lost, and the depletion of energy as the fight continues. A check that would be a constant reminder of something given to us in order to shut us up. We are coming for what is due and the youth are on the front lines.
“We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” There is hope within these lines. Hope for significant change. Hope for an America, that when we think of her, we will not feel shame. Hope for allies who will speak up and fan the flames instead of finding comfort in their silence and safety behind their locked doors. Hope for the day that such speeches will not have to exist.
I am honored to share with each of you the voices of several Black students who know the value of their lives and those lives of Black people and People of Color who struggle to be seen, heard, loved, respected, cared for, and celebrated in an America who has yet to open, really open her eyes.
Their message is one of strength, determination, will, and the understanding of a man’s dream that never came true and how one day, we hope that it will.
How one day, we hope there is more love thrown upon us than accusations, distrust, neglectful behavior, and racist acts. We deserve it. We have fought for it.
Wilfreda Edward is one of my favorite writers on Medium. She left for a little over two years and is now back with a vengeance. Upon her return, she reached out to me to become a writer for A Cornered Gurl and of course, I was ecstatic to add her. She is starting off this year right by being the featured writer for the month. The piece below is what landed her this spotlight:
The scale is tipped the shoulder chipped when they storm through only to disrespect their President elect with whitened skins the media screams protests but we march in peace to say our piece and they use this excuse to draw their guns they ignore truth and their constitution yet they throw gas to make our tears run while they rage and they corrupt and they bigot but they call ours a riot!