Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders members Suzette Shaw, left, holds photos of the 10 victims, and Margaret Prescod, at the podium, joins relatives of the victims to speak after the sentencing for Lonnie Franklin Jr. ., a convicted serial killer known as the “Grim Sleeper,” in Los Angeles Superior Court in August 2016. Damian Dovarganes/AP hide captio
Tens of thousands of Black youth and women go missing in the US every year. But their cases hardly grab national headlines, let alone receive the attention and resources devoted to finding them.
The state of California is taking steps to address that, creating a new statewide alert system to help find and bring attention to missing black children and young black women — who first in the country to do so.
Senate Bill 673, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday, will create the “Ebony Alert” system for missing Black children and young women. When activated, the proposed system – similar to Amber or Silver alerts – will notify people of missing black children and young women between the ages of 12 and 25.
The alert system will use electronic highway signs and encourage the use of television, radio, social media and other platforms to spread information about missing persons alerts.
The new alert system will start on Jan. 1, 2024.
State Sen. Steven Bradford, who introduced the measure, praised Newsom’s support for signing the bill – and he emphasized the difference between the resources and coverage to find white people and people of color throughout California.
“Today, California is taking bold and necessary action to find California’s missing black children and black women,” Bradford said in a statement announcing the bill’s signing.
“Ebony Alert will ensure that significant resources and attention are given to us to bring in missing black children and women in the same way we look for any other missing child and missing person,” he added.
Black youth and women are missing out at disproportionate rates
On average, more than 600,000 people are reported missing in the US each year, according to data from the National Crime Information Center.
By 2022, up to 546,000 people will be reported missing across the US – with 36% of cases identified as Black youth and women.
And while black people make up 13% of the US population, nearly 40% of missing persons cases are people of color, according to the Black and Missing Foundation.
“It’s important to continue to raise awareness about this issue and advocate for policies that prioritize finding missing people of color,” Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, told NPR .
Wilson told NPR that time is always critical in missing persons cases. He hopes this new alert system will work together with the media and law enforcement to help families looking for their missing loved ones.
“We need to make sure that every missing person is given the same amount of attention and resources, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status,” he said.