Derrica (left) and Natalie Wilson
It’s been nearly 20 years since journalist Gwen Ifill coined the phrase “missing white woman syndrome” to highlight how the media ignores missing persons cases in the Black community. But even though over 540,000 Americans were reported missing in 2020, and almost 40 percent of those were people of color, it’s still a struggle for families to get the word out about missing loved ones who aren’t conventionally pretty, young, white women.
That’s where sisters-in-law Derrica and Natalie Wilson come in. Derrica, who has a background in law enforcement, and Natalie, a public relations expert, co-founded the Black and Missing Foundation—aka BAMFI—in 2008, where the motto is “help us find us.” “Our mission is to not only help bring awareness to and find those missing from our communities, but also to provide families with the resources needed to do so,” Derrica and Natalie tell me via email. “We continue to work diligently to change the stereotypes around missing people of color—the runaway child, the thug, the criminal, and the undeserving poor.”
The non-profit shares info about missing people of color on Instagram (@blackandmissingfdn) and Facebook, as well as in more traditional news formats, including a monthly segment on Access Hollywood. They were also the focus of HBO’s four-part series Black and Missing, with Soledad O’Brien. BAMFI works closely with families searching for loved ones and they also advise newsrooms, elected officials, and law enforcement agencies on how they can serve vulnerable communities more effectively.
Both Derrica and Natalie have full-time careers and families on top of their non-stop work with BAMFI, which means lots of early mornings and late nights, along with a trusted team of associates. “There is power in doing this together,” they say. “At times, these families feel like they want to give up, but they can’t. We are a lifeline. We’re giving these families hope—many for the first time—in finding their missing loved ones. When every door closes it’s hard to keep going. But we let them know that we are in the fight with them and they can hold on for another day.” –Jenni Miller
PHOTO: (Black and Missing) Black and Missing Foundation
This article originally appeared in BUST's Summer 2022 print edition. Subscribe today!
Jenni Miller is the movies editor for BUST. You can find her on Twitter @msjennimiller