On a bright sunny day last fall, a tall, slender, dark-skinned black woman left her Georgia home and then simply vanished into thin air.
Thirty-five-year-old Shandell McLeod was last seen outside her house located in a quiet suburban neighborhood in Lithonia on the 24th of September, says Detective H. Guest, of Dekalb County Police Department, who is working on the case. Her distraught family says they now fear for her life.
“She is a single, professional, career-orientated woman, with no criminal record and her disappearance is completely uncharacteristic,” says Detective Guest.
What makes this story even more tragic is that her inexplicable disappearance has received absolutely no coverage from local or national media operators.
The only platform that has drawn attention to McLeod’s mysterious departure is the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. (BAM FI) website and their social networking sites. “What is so frustrating is what we have to go through to get attention for our missing persons,” says Natalie Wilson, co-founder & director of public relations at the Black and Missing Foundation.
In fact, according to FBI statistics African-Africans and other minorities make up roughly 40 percent of all missing persons.
“How often do you see these stories getting media attention,” says Derrica N. Wilson, a veteran law enforcement official and co-founder, president and CEO of the Black and Missing Foundation. “The public are misled to believe all victims are blond and blue eyed.”
It is this nagging feeling among many black Americans, borne out by facts, that their missing-person cases don’t get as much attention as missing-person cases involving whites that has led to accusations of media bias.
So much so that producers at TV One felt the need to devote an entire series to unsolved cases of missing African-Americans, with a hope to unearth clues and encourage viewers to come forward with information. The 10-part documentary-series, “Find Our Missing,” premieres on the cable network tonight.
“Though African-Americans are disproportionately affected there clearly is a void in the coverage of some of these cases,” Craig Henry, co-executive in charge of production at TV One told theGrio. “We are just pleased we can use our resources to fill in this gap.”
Blacks account for 12 percent of the population yet are involved in about a third of the country’s missing-persons cases, says Toni Judkins, programming chief at TV One.
“Unfortunately there’s a history of distrust between the black community and the police,” says Wilson of the Black and Missing Foundation, which aims to put the spotlight on missing persons of color and educate the minority community about better personal safety. “So we have created a forum where people can come to our website and report anonymously.”
Psychologists say when a person is missing or a body cannot be found it is often more traumatic than facing death, even homicide, for loved ones left behind, because there is no outlet for emotional closure.
“I just want to give her family closure,” says Det. Guest, who adds that so far they have one main suspect in the McLeod case, “an African-American man called Ricky Noble who was last seen in possession of her car before fleeing from police.”
Anyone with information about Shandell McLeod’s disappearance contact Detective H. Guest on 770-724-7866 or visit www.BAMFI.org and click on “Tip Line.”
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