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Missing & Black: Michael Baisden Lends a Hand

MICHAEL BAISDENBy//Juleyka Lantigua-Williams

As part of JET’s special investigative report on Black children who go missing—featured in the April 29, 2013 issue on stands now—we spoke with several experts to discuss the lack of mainstream coverage of these cases. Below you will find an extended interview with radio host Michael Baisden, who ran a “Missing Child of the Week” segment on his popular radio show, which was recently taken off air by Cumulus Media Networks. [Ed. Note: this interview took place before the show’s cancellation in late March], Baisden is still a vocal advocate in the finding our missing and Black. Here he shares the reasons behind his dedication.

JET: Your partnership with Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. (BAM FI) started in Sept. 2011. What prompted you to join forces?

Sometimes, you just need things to be brought to your attention. There are always stories about missing children. I saw a program about it. I think we had a missing child that was brought to our attention and I decided at that point to make it something we talked about every day.

JET: According to a press release, about 15 children were recovered as a result. What is your reaction to that?

I don’t count. I’m not keeping scores. All that matters is that children are found and returned to their families.

JET: Why did you choose to focus on children specifically?

Everybody cares about children. Missing children are more important than missing adults—I just have to be frank. An adult can take care of himself or herself. They can protect themselves. Children are powerless. They’re helpless. They need us to protect them. In most cases, there’s an adult involved. We have to protect the children more.

JET: What was your audience’s response to the “Missing Child of the Week” segment?

The response was immediate. Everyone is concerned about missing children. Everyone cares about finding them.

JET: Has any story in particular touched you in a personal way?

No. I care about all the stories. I’m equally passionate and saddened by each child’s story. There has not been one that has moved me or touched me in particular. They’re all important. They all have to be told.

JET: As someone in media, what is your reaction to the discrepancy in the coverage between missing Africa-American children and White children?

It’s deplorable. It’s shameful. It’s insulting. It’s obvious that White children have and continue to get more attention than children of color. It’s obvious that White children are valued more than children of color. It’s obvious that the media covers White children more than children of color. I just think that it’s racial. Black children are just not valued the same as White children in this country.

JET: Any advice for parents about how to get more media coverage?

The first lesson is keep an eye on your children. Keep an eye on your children so they don’t go missing. Have some kind of routine so you know where they are. I can assure you that most parents do not have a conversation with children about being abducted. I know they don’t. There’s a lack of education that must be addressed. Our children need to know how to deal with strangers. Second, parents need to make more noise in the media. They have to get their attention more.

JET: Do you think that the Black media has more of a responsibility to put a spotlight on this issue?

Absolutely. I’m not going to name names or criticize anyone publicly. But we definitely have more of a responsibility. If you’re in the media all you can do is lead by example.

For more info and to report an update on a missing person, please visit the Black & Missing Foundation, Inc. at bamfi.org. And to get the full story be sure to pick up the Missing & Black cover story, which is on newsstands now.