Each year, tens of thousands of Black girls and women go missing. In the year 2020, the number of reported missing Black girls and women reached nearly 100,000. Yet, their stories rarely reach national –– or local –– headlines.
A California-based journalist is working to change that, and bring more awareness to the thousands of stories we don't hear.
In 2018, Erika Marie Rivers launched Our Black Girls, a website dedicated to centering the stories of missing Black women and girls. The 39-year-old has undertaken the task by herself, spending nights combing through missing persons reports, archived news articles, databases, and more to put the stories of these women and girls together.
Many of the stories Rivers posts every other day after finishing her regular full-time job as a entertainment journalist are of women and girls who are "walking down the street, or they're going to the store, or 'they'll be right back,' and they just disappear," Rivers told NPR.
"And I know that there are a lot of stories like that about girls and women who look like me, so why am I not seeing them as much as I'm seeing everything else? And then it became, why am I waiting for somebody else to pick up this banner when I'm the one who's passionate about it?" Rivers said.
Rivers' articles chronicles how the girl or woman went missing as well as sharing who she is and who loves her, based on information gathered from friends and family.
In her work, Rivers says sometimes family members will reach out to express their gratitude for the coverage, while sometimes people reach out to say how surprised they were to hear about a case that happened right in their community.
Rivers goal is to make these stories more widely known to get the attention of authorities and increase interest from the public to help in finding them.
"I don't want to be just the latest person who writes about these girls and these women," Rivers told NPR. "I want there to be an end to their story or an end to this chapter, whether we find out what happened, whether somebody got justice, whatever it is."
Online, there is renewed conversation about the lack of media coverage of missing Black people following the national headline story about the disappearance of Gabby Petito whose body was found following days-long search.
Rivers said her work is not to be in competition with white people, rather to get groups of people who also go missing –– at higher rates –– the same attention.
"I'm talking about getting investigations up to par with what is already going on," Rivers explained.
"And I think when we bring that awareness, especially when it comes to Indigenous women and with Black women, and we're like hey we exist as well. It's not to say stop searching for that white woman. It's like, search for our women as much as you do anybody else and make sure that whatever energy that you place into one case is the same energy that you place into others."
In addition to Rivers' site, the Black and Missing Foundation works to support families and loved ones of missing Black people, assisting them in filing a police report, printing flyers, and more.
"We're really are our sister's keeper," Rivers said. Each story on Our Black Girls she writes ends the same: "She is our sister and her life matters."
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
For more mental health resources, click HERE.