Color naming

Lawyer helps bring missing people of color home

Meet Natalie Wilson, winner of the Daily Point of Light Award, who was the winner of the L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth 2021 award. Each year, L’Oréal Paris and Points of Light recognize and celebrate women of value who make a beautiful difference in their communities. Ten winners each receive a $20,000 grant to support their most cherished cause, and an online vote determines one winner who will receive an additional $25,000 grant. Applications for 2022 are now open! If you know a woman who is working to create lasting and meaningful change in her community, nominate her to be one of the 2022 Women of Worth.

As a public relations manager, Natalie Wilson knows how to generate interest around a cause. For nearly 15 years, the 52-year-old Washington, D.C. resident has been using her professional skills for good as she works to bring missing people of color home.

“A young woman named Tamika Huston disappeared from my sister-in-law’s hometown,” Natalie said. “We read how his family really struggled to get media coverage, especially national media coverage [around the case.] A year later, Natalie Holloway disappeared and her name dominated the news cycle. We weren’t sure if missing people were a problem in our community because we certainly didn’t see them on the news.

Today, Natalie says 40% of all missing people are of color, a number that has increased since she began her work. Realizing there was no time to wait for someone else to fix the problem, Natalie and her sister-in-law, Derrica, started the Black & Missing Foundation, Inc (BAMFI). The organization’s mission is to raise awareness for missing people of color, provide vital resources and tools to families and friends of the missing, and educate the minority community about personal safety.

“Missing people of color is an issue that affects all of us as a nation and concerns all of us, law enforcement, the media and our community,” Natalie says. “[We all] We have a responsibility to have these difficult conversations within our homes on this issue, because we can all make a difference, be mindful, and help another family find a missing loved one. When you see a flyer, don’t ignore it because it’s not your loved one and it’s not a priority because you’re not personally involved, know it’s the son, daughter, grand -father or the father of someone who is missing, and we need to mobilize around these families to help them through the most traumatic moment of their lives.

Natalie Wilson co-founded Black & Missing Foundation, Inc (BAMFI) to raise awareness for missing people of color, provide vital resources and tools to families and friends of the missing, and educate the minority community about personal safety./Courtesy courtesy of Natalie Wilson

Her help in these desperate situations has touched thousands of families across the country, with BAMFI ending nearly 400 cases to date, according to Natalie.

“There was a mother looking for her daughter and she had nowhere to go. We were able to get her on a national show, ABC’s “The View”. Within 14 minutes of the segment airing, we received a tip that her daughter had been found. This shows the extent of national media coverage. This was a huge win not only for the organization, but also for the mother and the families we serve. In obtaining [her] this national media coverage, they were able to bring their daughter home. This is what we are trying to provide to thousands of families, answers or closure on what happened to their missing loved one.

Through her service, Natalie, who is also Director of Operations for BAMFI, takes responsibility for addressing the issue among often disadvantaged populations, the media and law enforcement.

“7% of missing people of color are covered by the media and we are trying to change that number. Awareness is essential. If our community doesn’t know, they don’t look for the individual. When the case gets exposure and media, it also adds pressure on law enforcement. By serving as a publicist for those families who would otherwise get no media coverage at all, I use my experience and expertise to help our departed become household names too. We don’t want race to be a barrier to people getting media coverage or equal treatment under the law.

By developing relationships with family and friends of missing persons, Natalie has become a trusted advocate, says Ni’cola Mitchell, whose goddaughter, Jade Morris, was kidnapped and murdered in 2012. When Natalie stepped in to help the family, Jade’s mother had been blown away by the media and the police, Ni’cola said.

BAMFI Founders and Board Members attend a candlelight vigil for missing Relisha Rudd of Washington, DC / Courtesy Natalie Wilson

“[Jade] was murdered but Natalie made an impact, as they weren’t even looking for her. When it moved to national news, we organized research groups,” says Ni’cola. “I still believe that if Natalie hadn’t done her due diligence, they wouldn’t have found [Jade] because she was not important to look for. The police and everyone blew up the mother. They oversexualize and criminalize our kids all the time, but Natalie makes people, no matter what, feel human. It’s a God-given right, but not everyone gives it to us. Whatever their situation, be human.

Change is happening because of BAMFI, Natalie says, including an outpouring of work from the whole community, media traction and police reviewing and wondering how they can do a better job of missing persons cases. of color. Meanwhile, Natalie’s perseverance in raising awareness continues, using events like BAMFI’s Hope Without Boundaries 5K to honor those lost and provide funding to families of the fallen, distribution of flyers, financial support, recovery of victims and assistance with funeral services.

“The world needs [volunteers] now more than ever. There are so many people who need help or resources and you don’t even have to give very much. You can give your time, financial donations, just sit and listen, whatever. It’s so important to help someone who may feel isolated or alone, to know that the world cares, someone cares and understands what they’re going through.

Want to make a difference in your community like Natalie Wilson? Find local volunteer opportunities.

This post was written by the staff of Points of Light. Points of Light collaborates with the voices of diverse writers to help tell inspiring stories of leadership, volunteerism and civic engagement. We recognize that there are many ways to engage civically, as outlined in the Points of Light Civic Circle, and are grateful to our editors for helping us illustrate the impact of how everyday actions can change. the world.