Group puts spotlight on missing people of color
Valencia Harris' 25-year old daughter Unique has been missing since October 2010.
“Every time I talk to my grandsons they (ask) ‘Grandma, have you found mommy yet?’ It is totally heartbreaking beyond imagination,” said Harris.
The case has baffled police. Unique disappeared in the middle of the night from her Southeast D.C. apartment. Harris said there was no sign of struggle in her daughter’s apartment.
People of color account for about 40 percent of all missing-persons cases, according to the FBI. Critics argue the news media pay more attention - maybe too much attention - to missing people who are white, young and female.
She left behind her two young sons sleeping in the next room, and one important clue: her glasses. “She's extremely near-sighted. She needs her glasses. So that's was notified us that something was wrong,” Harris said.
Outside Ben's Chili Bowl, volunteers with the Black and Missing Foundation are passing out pictures of Unique and other missing African-Americans.
“You see Natalee Holoway, Chandra Levy, Caylee Anthony, they're dominating local and national news. But rarely do you see Unique Harris, Felicia Barnes or other people getting that exposure,” said Derrica Wilson of the Black and Missing Foundation.
D.C. police say when searching for a missing person, community awareness is crucial.
“Someone heard or saw something. They may not even realize it. For a missing person, they may have seen the person. So it's good to get visual aids out there to keep it fresh,” said MPD Assistant Chief Diane Groomes.
Family members say it's hard not to get frustrated when their loved ones disappear from homes, and then headlines.
“Not just my daughter, but anybody who's missing. It doesn't matter if they’re black or white. The bottom line is, they have families and they have people who love them,” Harris said.
After nearly eight months, police have very few leads in the Unique Harris case. Her mother is still posting fliers, holding prayer vigils and vows she will never give up.
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