By Antonio Ray Harvey
California Black Media
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the “Ebony Alert” bill to help locate missing Black youth and Black women in the state of California, according to a written statement from his office.
Senate Bill (SB) 673, authored by State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood), provides a notification system to address the often ignored or lack of attention given to Black children and young Black women that are missing in California.
“I am signing Senate Bill 673,” Newsom said in an Oct. 8 statement. “I thank the Legislature for highlighting this important issue, addressing well-documented disproportionality in the number of children of color who go missing every year.”
SB 673 authorizes a law enforcement agency to request that an Ebony Alert be activated if that agency determines that it would be an effective tool in the investigation of a missing Black youth or young Black women between the ages of 12 and 25 years.
The U.S. population is 14% Black. Black children are disproportionately classified as “runaways” in comparison to their White counterparts who are classified as “missing” and, therefore, many Black children do not receive the Amber Alert.
“It’s very important to have the Ebony Alert because far too often when Black Women and children go missing there is little to no publicity which hinders the effort to find them,” said Kellie Todd Griffin, CA Black Women’s Collective Empowerment Institute.
“I applaud Senator Bradford for bringing this forward and the Governor for signing the Ebony Act into law. Now we have to be diligent to ensure it is implemented effectively into practice.”
According to the Black and Missing Foundation Inc. (BAMFI), 38% of children reported missing in the U.S. are Black. BAMFI is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring awareness to missing persons of color. It provides resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and educates the minority community about personal safety.
AMBER – the moniker that stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response – was created as a legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas.
Similar to Amber Alert, California has an existing law that authorizes the issuance and coordination of a “Silver Alert” relating to a person who is 65 years of age or older, developmentally disabled, or cognitively impaired who is reported missing.
The “Feather Alert,” relating to an endangered indigenous person who has been reported missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances, is also on books.
“Our emergency alert system is dependent on people not being fatigued by it and thus ignoring it,” the Governor wrote. “Our challenge is to achieve balance between the imperative to notify the public quickly in cases of missing persons or dangerous situations, but to not desensitize that same public outcry by sending too many notifications.”
Black women and girls are at increased risk of being harmed and sex trafficked. A recent report on human trafficking incidents across the country also found that 40% of sex trafficking victims were identified as Black women. The county of Los Angeles reported that 92% of girls in the juvenile justice system identified as victims of sex trafficking are Black, according to the Congressional Black Caucus.
‘“When someone who is missing is incorrectly listed as a runaway, they basically vanish a second time,” Bradford said in a statement after he introduced the bill on the Senate floor in March. “They vanish from the police detectives’ workload. They vanish from the headlines. In many ways, no one even knows they are missing. How can we find someone and bring them home safely when no one is really looking for them,” Bradford stated.
Earlier this year, community advocates in Oakland’s announced a “state of emergency” in response to 10 attempted abductions and kidnappings of Black girls and women.
Oakland Councilmember Treva Reid of District 7, announced in May that of the 1,500 missing person cases reported in the city, 400 were Black women. In 2022 alone, 20% of missing cases went unsolved.
Reid supports SB 673. On May 30, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted in favor of her resolution endorsing the alert system statewide.
“A troubling number of our daughters, sisters, aunts, and mothers go missing throughout our community and they must be protected and safe in our city,” Reid stated. “It is critical that state and local jurisdictions have access to the best enforcement tools and resources to swiftly respond to the crisis of kidnappings and attempted abductions in Oakland and across California.”