Every morning I wake my daughters, we start our daily routine and attempt to make it out of the house on time. Most of the time we barely manage to get out without some near catastrophe occurring. I drop my 7-year-old off at school and send her on her way with a kiss on the forehead and an "I love you"; the same is repeated for my 3-year-old at her daycare center.
After accomplishing the sometimes seemingly impossible, I head to work with an overflowing mental "to-do" list.
In the midst of all of this, it's not often that I think, "I may not see one of my children again."
In May of 2004, Tamika Houston, a 25-year-old Spartanburg, S.C. native, went missing. Her face didn’t flash across news screens or end up on the front page of newspapers across the U.S. They were focused on cases such as Laci Peterson, Natalee Holloway and Lori Hocking—all who were “coincidentally” young, attractive white women.
It was at this time that Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson, decided it was time to use their law enforcement and public relations expertise respectively, to fill the void that national media simply refused to.
“We wanted to see how we could better serve our community after doing the research and [initially] discovering that 30% of missing persons in the United States were persons of color. That number has now increased to 40 percent,” said Derrica.
After serving on the police force for ten years, Derrica was familiar with missing person cases and the protocol for handling them. Natalie, who has a Master’s in communications and a Bachelor's in psychology, knew precisely how to manage the media relations, public affairs and community outreach fields. Together they realized that between the two of them, a difference could be made.
Founded on May 24, 2008, the Black and Missing Foundation Inc. (BMF). was created with the purpose of bringing awareness to missing persons of color by first educating the minority community on personal safety; second, providing vital resources to the families of missing person's families and friends; and lastly by serving as the common ground between the families of the missing, law enforcement and the media.
But as a non-profit foundation, BMF Inc. operates solely on donations and grants, and contributions from personal finances. It was pure passion and concern that made Natalie and Derrica exhaust their own personal accounts to create the possibility of hope for others. NOW THEY NEED US. Recently BMF was anonymously nominated for a $250,000 Grant from Chase Community Giving. Chase Community Giving is a program where fans help choose their favorite charities to receive grants from Chase by voting for them via Facebook.
If the community invests in BMF the way that the founders have invested in the community, more missing children and adults will likely be found. All it takes is a Facebook vote. To vote for the Black and Missing Foundation Inc. by the Sept. 19th deadline, simply click here.
“One of the things that we’ve realized is that when someone goes missing in our community, the families don’t know what to do or where to turn because there is a lack of trust with law enforcement in itself. So I can provide my expertise to the family and communicate with law enforcement,” said Derrica.
Natalie’s relationship with the media is vital in recovering the missing persons that distraught families request their help in finding.
“I work closely with the media which is very important in bringing awareness to the missing individuals, but I [also] coach the family on how to work with media to get their story or message out there about their missing loved one,” added Natalie.
Their dedication and passion have made a difference; since 2008 BMF Inc. has found approximately 96 people. This is largely due to their quick action when presented with a case, their holistic approach to the family’s needs, and the constant assistance of the public.
“We had a mother whose ex had abducted her daughter. He had visitation for a week, and that week turned into a month and that month turned into six months. She didn’t know what to do or where to turn—she even contemplated suicide. She called another organization and it fell on deaf ears. She called us and we immediately jumped into action,” explained Derrica.
Natalie got in contact with one of BMF Inc.’s national media partners to get the story to the public and she coached the mother on the subsequent interview to speak up for a public plea. An acquaintance of her ex heard the show and forced his hand to turn the child over. The mother flew from Florida to D.C. to reunite with her three-year-old daughter.
It’s hard to imagine that this national organization operates solely off of the dedication and hard work of only five individuals. In addition to Natalie and Derrica , Susan Deyampert, the webmaster and Director of Marketing; Candace Green, writer and editor of the BMF Inc. blog; and Robert Pruitt, Director of Training, all work to assist the heartbroken families that the constantly go ignored by mainstream media.
“We have broken down a lot of barriers and we still have a long way to go, but now with the organization coming full circle and the relationships that we’ve established throughout our inception, people are recognizing [this issue] and more people are getting involved,” said Derrica.
“Some of the stories…you just can’t believe what you’re hearing and we want to help. People don’t know what to do or where to turn—they don’t know what to do, and we coach them; and we hold their hands; and we cry with them; and we listen. So it’s definitely a service that is needed in our community,” said Natalie.
“We’re here and we have their best interest at heart. We are passionate about what we do. Natalie and I both work full time jobs, we’re full time employees, wives and mothers, [but] we do not miss a beat when it comes to these families,” said Derrica.