Missing Black Girls

When I first read about the tragedy of Kenneka Jenkins, like a lot of folks, I got caught up in the sensationalism of the story. Did her friends set her up? Who spiked her drink? Was it her voice calling out for help, during a sexual assault?

Unfortunately, the confusion that has accompanied this story has been exacerbated by the incompetence of the hotel, the indifference of police officials, and social media conspiracies.

Once you shift through all the chaos surrounding this young woman’s death, one of the bigger issues that emerges is how mainstream society deals with missing Black girls.

The stories of young black girls and women who are missing don’t get the Elizabeth Smart or Natalee Holloway treatment. We don’t see primetime television specials on them. Their images don’t become permanent fixtures on Twitter. Their names don’t get hashtags or trending topics. Nationwide manhunts or search parties don’t ensue. Crying black parents, pleading for their children to be found, don’t interrupt our sitcoms as breaking news. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-no-accident-hear-missing-black-girls-article-1.3005609

I became aware of Jenkins through the Facebook group, Black and Missing, But Not Forgotten. The story may have received more press coverage in Chicago (where the incident took place), but I haven’t noticed much mainstream media attention to this case.

I can only imagine the hoopla if a white girl, was found dead in a freezer in a fairly upscale hotel.

I was angered to read when Jenkins’s mother, after reaching out to police officials to report her daughter missing, had the police called on HER by the hotel. Jenkins’s mother decided to take measures in her own hands with family. They went around the hotel, knocking on doors, asking guests if they’d seen her daughter. A reasonable action, most parents would take.

Yet, the hotel had authorities remove her for “disturbing the peace.” It’s hard to believe they would’ve done the same thing to a white mother, frantically searching for her lost daughter.

The police, once involved, were no better. They initially refused to take seriously the disappearance of Jenkins. Perhaps, if they would’ve reacted faster the young woman would still be alive. Once they did find her in the freezer, they pretty much wrote it off as a “drunk girl” who foolishly locked herself in a freezer.

There was reluctance on their part to do any real investigative work. It was only the outrage of the Black community, that they were forced to do something. Once again, I don’t think this nonchalant attitude would’ve been used towards a white family. The criticism of the police,  has been reduced to “keystone cops” antics. No, they just didn’t give a damn.

As of 2014, 64,000 Black women were missing in the United States–March For Black Women

The calling of the police on Jenkins’s mother, shows that even when Black folks are the victims in need of help, we are still treated like threats. It’s reminiscent of the Seattle police shooting of Charleena Lyles, who called police for help. Lyles believed someone was breaking into her house. The police killed her instead.

A few days ago, the hotel released videos of the last hours of Jenkins’s life. It was alarming to watch the young woman desperately trying to figure out where she was. It was hard not to get upset, knowing the end result. If I was traumatized by the videos, I’m sure Jenkins’s mother is devastated. Her daughter went to a party (as most 19 year olds do), and will never return home. For her to be treated like a burden by the hotel and police, is a disgrace.

The mysterious circumstances of Jenkins’s death, will hopefully be resolved. Her family deserves proper closure.

Black and Missing Part. 5

Happy Friday!! I want to thank folks for riding with me this week on the issue of missing black persons.  I’ve been wanting to write about this issue for a while, but felt one post wouldn’t do it justice. I will revisit the issue as cases pop up.  I thought I would wrap up this series with what to do if a loved one goes missing. The Black and Missing But Not Forgotten website offers some great strategies to cope with a missing relative.

Here is information on how to handle a missing adult:

 Contact local law enforcement
Some law enforcement agencies are reluctant to take a report of a missing adult. Stress that you are not trying to control your child’s life but that YOU ARE TRULY CONCERNED FOR HIS OR HER SAFETY.

  • Write down the name of the officer who takes the report as well as the badge number, telephone number and the police report number.
  • Find out from the officer who will follow up on the initial investigation.
  • Keep a notebook and record all information on the investigation.
  • Be sure to ask if your child is entered into NCIC (National Crime Information Computer). The child must be entered here or other law enforcement agencies won’t know that your child has been reported as missing if the child is picked up or a check has been run on them for something else. (It is suggested that you view a read-out of the NCIC report. Sometimes information, such as height and/or eye color, may have been entered with the wrong data. This viewing gives you a chance to correct what might have been entered erroneously.)
  • Make fingerprint and dental records available to the police.
  • If there are medical or emotional concerns, make sure they are clearly stated when filing the report.
  • If a vehicle is involved, make sure the license is also entered into NCIC
  • Most often with adult missing, the families do the majority of the searching.
  • Sometimes, there is a desire to cancel a bankcard or credit card. It might be smarter to have law enforcement “flag” these cards so that if used, they will be notified, and might lead you to a paper trail of your loved one or someone who knows where your loved one is.
Photo from: bmia.wordpress.com
Photo from: bmia.wordpress.com




Black and Missing Part. 2

One of my favorite websites to stay informed about missing black people is Black and Missing But Not Forgotten. I follow this organization on their Facebook page.  They do a really good job of posting quickly about the latest case of a missing black person/updates if that person has been found, etc.

It’s on their page I learned about the disappearance of Dr. Teleka Patrick and the death of  Avonte Oquendo. Both of these cases highlight that our community needs to take better care/support of those struggling with mental health issues or developmental disabilities.

I am also alarmed at the many cases of missing black teen girls. Many tend to be found as runaways, but many more are victims of kidnappings/assaults/murder. Black children/young adults are more likely to be exposed to violence:

“Compared with other segments of the population, victimization rates for African American children and youth are even higher. Evidence suggests that Black youth ages 12 to 19 are victims of violent crime at significantly higher rates than their white peers.4 Black youth are three times more likely to be victims of reported child abuse or neglect, three times more likely to be victims of robbery,5 and five times more likely to be victims of homicide.6 In fact, homicide is the leading cause of death among African American youth ages 15 to 24.7”  http://www.victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/other-projects/youth-initiative/interventions-for-black-children%27s-exposure-to-violence/black-children-exposed-to-violence

Teen dating violence also makes black teen girls more vulnerable to becoming a missing victim. As well as (and probably more so) older men in the community preying on/”dating” teen girls.

It’s important our community is educated on the issues of mental health, the violence many young people are subject to,  and kicking the R. Kellys of the community to the curb. It could help to prevent some of these missing cases…

Dr. Teleka Patrick
Avonte Oquendo
The latest case from Black and Missing But Not Forgotten…missing teen Shirdyn Toe