By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Victoria Shaw, a Black girl approximately 15 years old, went missing Monday, Feb. 11, in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Teandah Slater, Black and also only 15 years old, was reported missing on Thursday, Feb. 7, from Noble Square in Chicago.
Areall Murchinson, a 16-year old Black girl, was last seen near the 200 block of West 111th Place, according to a community alert from Chicago police.
The three are the most recent to make the dubious and heart-breaking list of missing Black girls – particularly teens.
It’s a list that’s quite long and there remains no update on their status.
Recently, the nonprofit Black & Missing Foundation compiled statistics from the FBI which noted that in 2016 alone, 242,295 individuals of color were reported missing in the United States.
A stunning 36.7 percent of those missing were Black teens under the age of 18.
In total, statistics show more than 75,000 young Black Americans are currently missing.
What’s more, officials at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline said they’ve received more than 18.4 million reports, most of which led to apparent child sexual abuse images: online enticement (including “sextortion”), child sex trafficking and child sexual molestation.
Those statistics, and the seeming lack of media interest, have led to cries of racism and neglect, particularly when it comes to Black girls.
It has also led La’Tasha D. Mayes to pen the essay, “Why the Crisis of Missing Black Girls Needs More Attention Than It’s Getting.” Mayes’ March 2017 essay was published at Ebony.com where she noted that an academic study analyzed news coverage of missing children and found that only 20 percent of reported stories focused on missing Black children. This, despite the fact that Black children account for 33 percent of total missing children cases.
“In other words, missing Black youth are grossly underreported in the news. For missing girls, it’s even worse. When Black girls go missing, far too many people don’t know or don’t care,” Mayes wrote.
Many argue that the stories of young Black girls and women who are missing don’t get the same degree of local, national and global attention as that of an Elizabeth Smart or Natalee Holloway.
Smart, a 14-year-old white girl, was kidnapped in 2002 from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah. After an intense search that included relentless media coverage, Smart was rescued by police nine months later and, among other activities, she’s become an analyst for ABC News.
Holloway disappeared in 2005 while on a high school graduation trip in Aruba.
The white Alabama teen’s story drew global media coverage and, although her remains were never found, she was declared dead in 2010.
Many maintain that African Americans aren’t afforded the intense police investigations or the media coverage given to whites that go missing.
“Black girls are magical and should be noticed, uplifted and acknowledged, both within and outside of the Black community,” said Ginger Lavender Wilkerson, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles.
“To recognize Black girls as magical means defining them as precious, unique and valued. When society recognizes their worth and value, I believe that more attention will be paid to this matter. In addition, it will call for all people to recognize this as an epidemic and cause for action,” Wilkerson said.
Child Rights activist Katerina Canyon said she’s been researching cases of missing Black girls for years and there are several unknowns, including that many go missing without any witnesses. “This leads me to believe that the kidnappers are either very good at what they’re doing, or the girls left on their own,” Canyon said.
“We need to make sure black girls have readily accessible help from adults in a safe environment such that they do not fall victim to homelessness or trafficking. A lot of times, with the proper interventions, we can prevent black girls from leaving home or falling prey to traffickers,” she said.
The mystery of the disappearances also has heightened since 2016 when Donald Trump won the presidency and the subsequent rise in nationalism and white supremacy.
Some of the disappearances have proven more suspicious than others.
A recent report highlighted the case of Amber Evans, who disappeared in 2015.
Evans had been a key player and driving force behind state and local juvenile justice reform in Ohio – work for which she’d been rewarded when the organization she worked for, the Juvenile Justice Coalition, put her in charge.
In a Facebook post on her first day as executive director, Evans, 28, displayed her track and field medals.
“Ohio is for champions and I used to be something of a track star,” Evans wrote.
“Wearing my old medals before starting day 1 as executive director of the Juvenile Justice Coalition was a nice reminder of that.”
Three weeks later, Evans disappeared.
Her car was found, purse in the trunk, her last known whereabouts, a stop at the pharmacy. Her last known words, a text to her mother saying, “I love you and I’m sorry.”
“There never seemed to be a sense of urgency for our missing African American girls,” said Nashima Harvey, an educator and founder of Girls of Decision, a youth empowerment group that seeks to assist girls in making better choices in all stages of their lives.
“The sad thing that I have encountered has been that many of the young girls I have interacted with on my journey are young women who were former human trafficked young ladies,” Harvey said.
“These women went missing at the ages of 12 to 14 and are now adults living in toxic situations looking for a better life and all seemed to feel no longer welcomed by their family. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with this population, but I do believe that we need to be diligent and outspoken when it comes to saving our girls,” she said.