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Missing Black Women, Missing Black Girls

It was a Sunday at least 16 years ago when I first learned that a plethora of black women were missing and often found dead in Harlem. At that time my husband and I, along with our daughters and some of our less fiscally sound neighbors, were giving out food from our house. We had just gotten back from picking up the produce, pastries and breads that would have been thrown away at a New Jersey grocers when one of the men who worked with us was approached by a pretty girl with tears in her eyes.

We left them alone to give them privacy, but he told us all as soon as he entered the house.

Another young pretty, black woman had gone missing. And she was a friend of his.

My first reaction would have been another one, but he proceeded to tell us that for months black women in our neighborhood had been disappearing, at least a dozen. Sure some of them were crackheads, some were hookers. But they were all black. They had found bodies but those reported homicides were never in the papers. It was all passed around by word of mouth. It was clear then, as it is now that these marginalized women were not as important as those with blonde hair and blue eyes, or even those who came from affluent families. If anyone reported these women missing they were met with the mantra “they probably ran away”.

And who wouldn’t want to believe that? It’s easy to go to the fact that people living in poverty want to escape their position in society. But that doesn’t always happen, no matter how hard you try. A recent report said affordable housing isn’t always affordable. For example, if you make  $800 a month and have to pay $300 for rent, over $200 a month to get to and from work, have a phone and utility bills, how are you to eat? How are you to live? These are the poverty level people who are trying to escape their situation with no success.

Some of those women were missing as well. Again, those that cared about them were met with the running away theory. The police barely looked into these disappearances. They were going to make the news because they were the invisible poor that populate the country and are constantly in need of being reminded of their rights.

The young woman who was found, who had been missing for a week and was the friend of the veteran who was helping us each Sunday with the food, had been strangled according to the word around the ‘hood. She had also been sexually assaulted. But that was not even taken into consideration for she was a known prostitute.

Was it only two years ago that some white women who were well know for being prostitutes went missing and at least one body was found in the marches on Long Island? Why did that get local, even national attention, and the missing women of Harlem got none?

Even BET (Black Entertainment Television) had a short lived program about our missing simply because disenfranchised and marginalized people are never considered a priority.

The newscasters on Good Morning American  spoke about the missing girls in Washington, DC, Monday morning March 27, 2017. The reporter covering the the story was black and said that the Mayor of DC promised to find out more and to look into these disappearances. She was putting more money and more manpower (police) on the case to get to the bottom of what is going on. Most believe it is sex trafficking. Still parents are met with the girl ran away more often than let me help you find your missing child. Two of the missing girls were found. One of them had runaway from an abusive foster home. She said she slept in a laundromat at night and walked around DC during the day only to be hassled by males of all races looking for a ‘good time’ with a sweet young thing.

that scared her enough to turn herself in.

And while Robin Roberts and Michael Strahan, GMA Hosts, talked with the reporter they were joined by GMA legal analyst Dan Abrams, who is white, explained that he has known about this for years and it is time to take these disappearances seriously. He said he could name quickly three white girls who had gone missing and had been reported in the news. He admitted that he couldn’t name one black girl who had gone missing because they don’t make the news.

These women and girls are someone’s mother, daughter, sister. They are human beings. These dark haired wide eyed beauties are just as important as any other woman. They need to be found as well.

It is not always a question of money. It is not a question of how and when they were reported missing. Sit on my side of the aisle as I wonder what I would have to go through if one of my daughters or granddaughter went missing. My fear is mounting as I write. I often get on FACEBOOK posts about missing and exploited black children. Then in a few weeks the search dies away.

Every missing person is a priority. Here is one place where this country definitely must stop thinking in color. Brown babies are just as important as white ones. All are God’s children, all of them need protection.

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Minnette Coleman is a writer, actress and singer born in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of two novels “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” and “No Death by Unknown Hands.” She resides in Harlem, New York and is a member of the Harlem Writers Guild.

1 comment to Missing Black Women, Missing Black Girls

  • BJ

    We have to pressure and drive the media in this direction, the same way that was done in Atlanta years ago during the period of the “missing and murdered children”. The faces of the parents of theses kids need to humanize those missing. I don’t know how to organize something like it, but if the media can spend 24/7 on politics, surely, some reporter is tired of the political foolishness.

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