Earlier this year, the hashtag #missingdcgirls helped bring national attention to the numerous cases of missing black and brown girls in the Washington D.C.-area. Unlike cases involving the disappearance of young white women like Natalee Holloway, these missing person cases went largely unnoticed and unreported by the mainstream media.
At the time of this post, the Metropolitan Police Department website showed that out of 2,942 missing persons cases reported in the District this year, only 38 cases remained open. However, you only need to scroll through those open cases on the police department’s site to see that this crisis disproportionately affects Black women and children.
But this isn’t just a D.C. issue. According to an expose on Essence.com, “Black women and girls are going missing and it’s not just in Washington D.C. It’s happening in Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta and other urban areas around the country.”
In April, Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls (CCBWG) co-chairs Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02) administered a panel discussion to outline solutions at the local and national level — an effort to ensure Black women and girls are returned home safely, while protecting the vulnerable from kidnappings, sex trafficking or erasure when they are labeled “runaways.”
As outlined in an article from Essence.com, here are five ways we can get involved:
- If you see something, say something: Be vigilant about your surroundings and trust your gut instincts when you see women who seem out of place and in distress.
“If I see an older man with a younger girl who seems submissive, and something doesn’t seem right, it raises a red flag to me,” said panelist Derrica Wilson, president of the Black & Missing Foundation. “I make sure that with today’s technology, I take pictures of suspicious individuals and capture license plate tags.”
If a woman or girl on your bus, plane or train appears distressed or held against her will, simple questions like, “Are you okay?” or “Do you have somewhere to go?” can help you gauge if the woman needs help. If you feel someone is in a compromising situation — should you choose to engage or not — report it to an authority.
- Be careful on social media: Think before you tag that location with your family’s photos. Be cautious of the images you’re uploading and the associated privacy settings. If you have children, monitor the conversations they have on social media and who they’re engaging with; phones should not be allowed in children’s rooms unattended overnight. Predators seek vulnerability and prey on children in need of attention and comfort.
- Enlist community-based organizations to help: If there are missing persons in your area, ask faith-based organizations like the Black & Missing Foundation to help pass out flyers to the congregation. Work with community servicing organizations to offer preventive classes and traumatic counseling services for impacted groups of people.
- Hold local media accountable: The faces of the missing are largely white girls and women, while missing black people are often categorized as runaways. If there are missing individuals in your town or city, call your local newspaper and broadcast stations daily until they pursue a story. Use social media as an additional tactic to reach out to reporters.
- Donate time and money to organizations committed to the cause: There are several local and national nonprofit organizations donating their time and effort to preventing black women and girls from going missing. Participate in a local fundraiser or awareness drive to help support the people doing the work in the community every day.