They’re making sure our people get the coverage they deserve!
Recently, there has been renewed coverage for missing Black girls in America. The case of Carlee Russell sparked national media attention, and while the entire incident turned out to be an unfortunate hoax, it sparked conversation regarding a real issue, the usual lack of widespread media coverage surrounding missing people who happen to be Black. It’s a conversation all too familiar for Natalie Wilson and Derrica Wilson, one they’ve been a part of since launching the Black and Missing Foundation (BAMFI) in 2008.
Sparked by the case of 24-year-old Tamika Huston who disappeared from her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the two realized that Huston’s case got no coverage in comparison to white women like Jennifer Wilbanks, Laci Peterson, and Natalee Holloway, who all went missing near the same time. The case inspired Natalie, a public relations expert, and Derrica, a law enforcement professional, to take action and launch their own platform.
“To help even the playing field, we created the Black and Missing Foundation (BAMFI), using our expertise in law enforcement and public/media relations, to bring awareness to the plight of missing persons of color through public awareness campaigns and a forum for families of the missing to spread the word of their disappearance,” a statement on the website reads.
More than 240,000 people of color go missing in the United States annually, Black people accounting for nearly 40% of all missing cases despite only making up 13% of the nation’s population. BAMFI helps bring awareness to these cases, supporting families and facilitating campaigns to help aid in the safe return of missing Black people. At their core is a delicate balance of engagement and support, helping to rally the troops, mitigate the narrative in the media surrounding the missing, and collaborating with law enforcement, community leaders and other stakeholders to coordinate search efforts and streamline communication. BAMFI also puts a premium on providing emotional support to the families faced with the distress of a missing loved one.
“We bring awareness to missing people of color across the country. Our strategy, especially from a media perspective, is to make our missing [individuals] household names, too. 40% of the missing population are people of color, and yet oftentimes, they do not receive the local and national media coverage to highlight or bring awareness to their disappearance, or the law enforcement resources, even community engagement, to help find them and bring them home. We have experience in media and public relations and with law enforcement to help bridge the gap to find individuals that are missing from our communities,” Natalie recently told journalist Phil Lewis.
In addition to their work on the ground, BAMFI has launched educational initiatives to raise awareness in the Black community about preventative measures people can take, while teaching about the dangers of human trafficking and abduction risks. BAMFI has taken these initiatives to schools and organizations to empower individuals with the tools to protect themselves and their loved ones. Their website is full of resources with everything from a checklist of what to do if you believe your loved one is missing to child ID kits that can be ordered and include inkless fingerprint cards and a DNA swab. BAMFI also has an anonymous tip line and Apple podcast entitled “Untold Stories: Black and Missing.”
While BAMFI has made significant strides in addressing the disparities in missing persons cases, challenges still persist and the foundation continues to hone in on the issue of missing Black people. Despite limited funding and resources, they have remained committed to working tirelessly to fight for those who have no voice and ensure that every missing person, regardless of race, receives equal treatment.
Natalie says the case of Carlee Russell is a reminder that the community can come together to find those who are missing, urging people to not be disheartened by this one incident because there are so many who actually need the help, many of them right in our own backyards.
“We can’t turn a blind eye to this issue. When you see a missing person’s flyer, don’t just disregard it because you don’t know that missing individual. But I will say that [the Carlee Russell] case has shown that we have the power to come together as a community to help us find us. I can only imagine how many families we could help if we put this same energy into finding other missing people of color. So be our digital milk carton. We need our community to get involved. Start with your own community. Who’s missing from your community? Share those profiles, help them to go viral,” said Natalie.
To support the crucial work of the Black and Missing Foundation through donations, volunteering or spreading awareness, visit www.BlackandMissingInc.com.
Cover photo: The Black and missing foundation: A beacon of hope in search of the lost/(l to r) Co-founders Derrica Wilson & Natalie Wilson/Photo Courtesy of the Black and Missing Foundation