By Robert J. Hansen | Special to The OBSERVER
In an attempt to address the seeming lack of attention given to Black children and young Black women missing in California, the legislature is considering a bill that would create an “Ebony Alert” notification system.
Sen. Steven Bradford introduced Senate Bill 673 last month. If made law, it would allow local law enforcement agencies to create an alert system as a tool in investigations of Black missing youth or young women ages 12-25.
“The Ebony Alert would ensure that resources and attention are given so we can bring home missing Black women and Black children in the same way we would search for any missing child and missing person,” Bradford said in a news release.
Voice of the Youth founder Berry Accius supports the bill and said it is essential for several reasons.
“I have spent several years locating missing Black children and young women for families that are unable to solicit help from law enforcement and media,” Accius said. “I have shared the frustrations with these families as we have had to navigate using limited resources to locate their loved ones.”
In the United States, 38% of children reported missing are Black, according to the Black and Missing Foundation. Black people make up 14% of the nation’s population.
“The data is clear: 40% of sex trafficking victims have been identified as Black women, according to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation report on human trafficking,” Accius said.
Accius, who created the program She Could Be My Daughter, said Black children are disproportionately classified as “runaways” in comparison to their white counterparts, who typically are classified as “missing.” As a result, many cases of missing Black children do not receive an Amber Alert.
“It is imperative that this bill be passed and become a law. Black children and Black women’s lives depend on it,” Accius said.
California-Hawaii State Conference NAACP President Rick Callender said SB 673 will provide law enforcement with additional tools and resources to help locate missing Black youth and adults through cooperation with the community and the California Highway Patrol.
The California-Hawaii State Conference NAACP, a sponsor of the bill, considers missing Black women and girls an epidemic worthy of its own safety alert.
“Black women and girls are at increased risk of harm and make up a disproportionate percentage of all missing people,” Callender said. “Black women and girls also have an increased risk of being harmed and trafficked.”
According to a recent report on human trafficking by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, 40% of sex trafficking victims nationwide were identified as Black women.
Bradford said when a missing person is incorrectly listed as a runaway, they basically vanish a second time.
“They vanish from the police detectives’ workload. They vanish from the headlines,” Bradford said. “In many ways, no one even knows they are missing. How can we find someone and bring them home safely when no one is really looking for them?”