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Families of missing people of color share frustrations with getting stories heard

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Posted at 12:10 PM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 15:12:34-04

The face of Gabby Petito is one we've come to recognize because the story around her disappearance and death has made national headlines over the past several days.

Responding to the coverage, families of missing people of color are sharing their frustrations about getting their stories heard at the same level.

Our partners at Newsy spoke to the mother of 25-year-old Jelani Day, an Illinois State University graduate student who vanished under suspicious circumstances a month ago.

Carmen Bolden-Day described how police have handled her son's case as frustrating, lacking information and sympathy. She's hired a private investigator and an attorney to help her.

“I’m not going to be quiet and sit back and accept this treatment. My son is important,” she said.

On Thursday, the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office identified a body found near a river on Sept. 4 as Jelani Day. Authorities said the remains weren't able to be immediately identified due to the condition.

Bolden-Day’s story and frustrations are not unique for families of missing people of color.

“And we also believe that there's a narrative or stereotype that the people missing from our communities are impoverished, they are addicted to drugs or some type of addictions, they have a criminal background. So, they aren't valued. To me, they aren't seen as humans,” said Natalie Wilson, co-founder of Black and Missing Foundation, Inc.

Northwestern law school confirms bias and systemic racism play a role in those who are Black and missing getting less media attention. But those who are Black go missing more often, according to the FBI, when you factor in population.

A third of active missing people cases are those who are Black.

“And we see these waves where something happens and there's a firestorm and then the story dies. Well, let's not let that happen. Let's continue the conversation, so we can bring home more of our missing. You know, there's Keeshae Jacobs that's missing out of Richmond, there's Phoenix Coldon who’s still missing out of St Louis. There are so many people missing, Akia Eggleston, she's missing out of Baltimore,” said Wilson.

Wilson says changes in laws could help equal the playing field, not only for people of color, but also young adults who are either too old for an Amber Alert, but too young for a Silver Alert.

She says everyone has a part and it can start with sharing images of missing people in your community.

“And share that information within your network. All we need is one person to come forward, to provide answers, or they found the missing person’s family or a recovery,” said Wilson.