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Local missing woman’s family highlights the crisis of missing Black women

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Spectrum News 1
Rae Williams
September 22, 2023

LOS ANGELES — When you ask South LA resident Marlena Walker about her niece, Phedra Walker, she’ll tell you she is fun-loving, easy-going and a really nice person.


She’ll tell you that has a thin frame and, with a smirk, she’ll let you know she isn’t very street-wise. She’ll also tell you that her entire family is worried about Phedra Walker, who hasn’t been heard from since late July.

Phedra Walker disappeared shortly after undergoing surgery at a local hospital, leaving all her belongings behind, including her phone, which remains lost or stolen. Despite filing a police report, Marlena Walker expressed frustration at the lack of progress in finding her niece.

“I wanted someone to come out here and ask me questions,” she said. “They didn’t even ask for a picture.”

The startling disappearance of Black women in the United States has come under the spotlight as more than 97,000 cases were reported in 2022 alone, according to data from the National Crime Information Center. This concerning trend sheds light on a crisis disproportionately affecting the Black community. Phedra Walker’s family is unfortunately just one of many in Los Angeles is now enduring the agonizing uncertainty of a missing loved one.

Natalie Wilson, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of the Black and Missing Foundation, expressed concerns that the statistics may be far worse.

“We have a population or community that has a sense of distrust with law enforcement. So they may not be reporting,” she explained. Wilson also highlighted the alarming fact that traffickers often target young Black girls and women. “They know that no one will search for them, and if they’re caught, the penalty will not be as harsh,” she said.

The foundation offers crucial support to families like Phedra’s, guiding them through the process of filing police reports and reaching out to media outlets. They also maintain an extensive database of missing Black individuals to raise awareness, a vital tool in helping reunite families with their loved ones.

A study in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology points to stark disparities in coverage intensity with missing Black women versus their white counterparts, a fact that caught the attention of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Garcelle Beauvais earlier this year. Beauvais executive produced and starred in the Lifetime Movie “Black Girl Missing,” emphasizing the urgent need to address this problem.

“We go missing, and it doesn’t seem like anybody cares, right? Whether it’s media, whether it’s police. And I feel like we need to change that.” Beauvais said. “We can name Gabby Petito, Natalee Holloway. You know, we can name a bunch of white girls, and I’m not saying their stories aren’t important, but we just need to be equally important as well and be seen and heard.”

Phedra Walker’s story is just one of many, with more than 50 Black people on The Black and Missing Foundation’s radar in California. But Walker’s teenage daughter, in particular, bears a heavy emotional burden.

“Her father says she’s been crying quite often,” Marlena Walker said. “They’re worried about their mom. We just don’t know what to think.”

As the Black community grapples with this alarming crisis, awareness and action are critical. Anyone with information on Phedra Walker or any other missing person is encouraged to come forward to authorities or the Black and Missing Foundation and help bring them home. The Black and Missing Database serves as a repository of information on missing individuals across the country, offering a glimmer of hope for families seeking their loved ones.

Photo credit: Spectrum News 1

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