(Pictured above: Derrica Wilson (left) and Natalie Wilson, the founders of Black & Missing Foundation)
If you’re a fan of TV One you’ve likely seen an episode— or at least a promo — of Find Our Missing. The show (Mondays at 9pm ET) highlights the much needed stories of scores of African-Americans who’ve vanished. JET spoke to Natalie Wilson, who co-founded the Black & Missing Foundation with her sister-in-law Derrica Wilson, to talk about her organization’s mission to help minority families who are searching for loved ones.
JET: What made you create the Black & Missing Foundation (blackandmissinginc.com)?
There was a young woman named Tameka Houston of South Carolina who went missing from Derrica’s hometown. We saw a story about the struggle to bring awareness to her case and were just awestruck. After doing some research, we found out that 30 percent of people who are missing are people of color— today, that number has increased to 40 percent. Many of us know the story of Natalie Holloway; she went missing not too long after Tameka and she dominated the news. She still continues to dominate the news.
JET: What moved you from empathy to action?
We got together and said lets channel our skills for a greater good. Our community is not really aware that this issue is going, so as a non-profit organization we educate the community. We found that when many of our children are missing they’re classified as runaways—even when they are not—so they aren’t even given AMBER Alerts.
JET: How did you know where to begin with such a huge undertaking?
The good thing about our organization is that Derrica is a veteran police officer and I’m in public relations. Those are the two elements that are needed in finding missing loved ones. We’re both wives and mothers, and we wanted to make sure our community and families are safe.
JET: How did you start?
After setting up the non-profit organization and partnering with a web master, we just started speaking to people in our community and drumming up support. We had people saying this was a really good cause, and a lot of others who shared they didn’t know the issue was so prevalent. And it took off. Now we have partners, such as Ebony.com and TV One, to help us bring awareness.
JET: The media simply doesn’t cover many missing cases people of color. How do you push back?
One of my greatest challenges is getting coverage because the stereotype is that Black people are missing because they’re involved in some type of criminal element— and that’s definitely not always the case. We are building relationships with various outlets. For this issue, all of us—law enforcement, the community and the media— must play a part.
JET: How do you help families?
Once someone contacts us the first thing we do is ensure that a police report is on file. We’ve found a lot of families have gone to the police department but once you check there is no report, so that’s the first step. Next, we work closely with law enforcement and our national media partners to bring awareness to the case. We also utilize social media a lot because we can’t wait for the evening news since so much can happen in a few hours. We also coach families on key things to say to the media.
JET: What’s next for Black & Missing?
We’ve started support groups in Washington, DC area and would like to extend into other states.
Find out more about the organization and how to support the cause at www.blackandmissinginc.com
Get more details about TV One’s Find Our Missing (airs Mondays at 9pm ET) at www.tvone.tv