By now everyone has heard the great news that 14-year old Ayvani Perez who was abducted from her home in Georgia on Tuesday has been found and she’s safe & sound.
African Americans make up about 13% of the U.S. population, but are almost 1/3 of all missing person cases reported each year. So why don’t we garner the same amount of attention as non-Black abductees? According to the FBI’s missing persons database (NCIC) there are approximately 87,000 active missing person records as of December 31, 2012. Juveniles under the age of 18 account for almost 40% of these cases and minority children make up 65% of all non-family abductions, African-American children – 42%. I’ll bet you can remember Jon Benet Ramsey, Caylee Anthony and Elizabeth Ramsey but how many African American young kidnap victims can you name? Read the piece below from The Milwaukee Journal to learn about one little girl who was abducted the same year as 14-year old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from Salt Lake City, UT (who, coincidentally, was found 9 months later – ALIVE) –
Alexis Patterson, a seven-year-old, African-American girl from a poor part of Milwaukee, also disappeared in 2002, after being walked to school. Local law enforcement and volunteers immediately mobilized to find the young girl. Her mother, Ayanna Patterson, appeared on national shows such as “Maury Povich” and “Ricki Lake” over the last 10 years. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett last year proclaimed May 3rd as “Alexis Patterson: Forget Me Not Day.”
Patterson told The Milwaukee Journal: “We must never forget her. I can’t ever forget her.”
It appears that Patterson has done everything right to maintain attention on the disappearance on her child. Still, the case never achieved the level of national coverage as the Elizabeth Smart case. Although there are infinite possibilities for outcomes, the contrast begs the question: What if Alexis Patterson received the same coverage as Elizabeth Smart?
In 2010, Pace University (N.Y.) professor Seong-Jae Min and Rowan University (N.J.) professor John C. Feaster released a study comparing the proportions of race and gender from the news coverage of five national television stations between 2005 and 2007 to official missing children statistics. The study showed that African-American and female missing children were significantly under-represented in television news coverage.
There is a television show that is dedicated to spotlighting people of color – young and old – who have disappeared without a trace. The show is called Find Our Missing and hopes to provide viewers with details of kidnappings that may jog the memories of any unknown witnesses. It airs on TVOne, and is hosted by S. Epatha Merkerson, who is best known for her role on Law & Order.
So what should you do if your child comes up missing? These are some of the precautions you can take –
- Keep a complete and current written description of your child
- Take color photos, digital if possible, of your child every six months or more often if your child’s appearance changes
- Know here your child’s medical and dental records are located and how they may be obtained
- Contact your local law enforcement agency to see if they offer fingerprinting for children. If so arrange with the agency to have your child fingerprinted
- Collect a DNA sample from your child
Also, there are resources available to those who know someone who has been abducted:
- Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., (BAM FI) – The mission of BAM FI is to create awareness about missing persons of color, and provide resources to the black community concerning locating missing persons.
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s – Call 1-800-THE-LOST. This hotline is available 24/7
- Contact the local authorities to issue an Amber Alert. The Amber Alert was designed to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.
Bring our children home!