12:00pm

Wed February 8, 2012
Race

New TV Series Highlights Black Missing Persons

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 12:00 pm

A new show on TV One puts a spotlight on missing people of color. The network, which caters to an African-American audience, hopes Find Our Missing "will put names and faces to people of color — young and old — who have disappeared without a trace," according to the website.

What's implicit in this description is that reports on missing people of color are hard to find in mainstream media, which often highlight the cases of young white women who have disappeared.

"I can't explain why that happens," says actress S. Epatha Merkerson, "other than that there's apathy about persons of color who are missing."

Merkerson, who is most famous for her role as NYPD Lt. Anita Van Buren on the show Law & Order, agreed to host the new TV One series to bring about a call to action.

She tells Michel Martin, host of NPR's Tell Me More, "It's so imperative that this information be given a national forum."

Media Coverage

Derrica Wilson agrees. She's a police investigator who co-founded the nonprofit Black and Missing Foundation, which is working with the show as it highlights specific cases from across the country.

Wilson recalls that the family of Tamika Huston struggled for coverage when the 24-year-old went missing from Spartanburg, S.C., in May 2004, while Lori Hacking's disappearance made headlines months later, as did Natalee Holloway's the following year.

While blacks account for less than 13 percent of the population, they account for more than 30 percent of missing people, according to the FBI. Wilson says more needs to be done to bring these cases to light.

Wilson says her organization is making headway on educating people about keeping their loved ones safe, while also helping to solve cases by bringing them to a national audience.

"Media coverage is very vital in the safe recovery of missing persons," she says. "If we can put out that profile of this missing person, the chances of a reunion with their family members are greater."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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