Find Our Girls: DC — If you’re thinking about walking out, think again.

Over the last few weeks, as the public has come to notice more and more Missing Persons Reports in the District of Columbia, the light has been shed on this long standing issue in the District. Social Media has struck fear into our city as we begin to wonder what is happening to these girls and why isn’t the mainstream media making this a headline? Its the same exact reason why, in 2017, we still have to remind people that yes, BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Our communities are outraged, rightfully so. No family, parent, brother, sister, friend, should ever go through the pain of not knowing where their loved one is. It is frightening, and I cannot imagine the horror. I repeat the sentiments of many city officials who have released public statements on this matter: even one missing person, in any city, of any race or age, is one too many. The fact that in 2017 we are noticing that the missing persons reports are beginning to have a familiar description: young and black, is alarming. On the heels of the box office thriller, Get Out (not that I believe in superstisions) this is especially frightening. I reference that movie just to demonstrate the different mediums of information, theories, and stories that are getting into the minds of the world — and even more specfically, in this case, the minds of young black boys and girls.

We have a problem. This is undeniable. But, yet again we need to pause, take a moment to think, and check ourselves before we aimlessly get behind this issue. I repeat something that I am sure many people who read my messages have heard me say time and time again: get educated, get involved, get focused, then get change.

Misinformation is deadly. We live in a technologically advanced society. In this instance we are reminded that the birth and growth of techonology and social media is both a blessing and a curse. People first began to notice this trend in Missing Persons in Washington, DC because of a new tool the MPD is using to engage the community. Tweets with images of these missing persons and information about their last whereabouts have been sent out. Now, instead of hearing it on a radio (where you simply hear a name) you can put a face with the name. And any time you see a young face (for this moment, regardless of race) and MISSING PERSON in bold letters, it is truly frightening. This is a good part, city officials finding new ways to spread information to the general public is great!

HOWEVER, when misinformation comes into play, technology turns deadly. Last week, a tweet floated around the internet suggesting that 14 young girls went missing in the last 24 hours — this is simply NOT TRUE. But, when you’ve been reading about missing black girls in DC, seeing it up and down your timeline, and that tweet comes up… you automatically take it as truth. And in .2 seconds it is retweeted to your thousands of followers, passed on as truth. I am sure that the originator of this tweet did not mean any harm, like anyone, he/she probably just wanted to do their part to raise awareness. Spreading false information to an anxious community is never good. Instantly, the tweet was retweeted and spread by everyday people and even celebrities. Luckily, a local news outlet reported that this information was not correct. Even still, I continued to see people running with this information all over social media after it was reported that the information was incorrect. Once a falsehood is in the universe, it is very hard to take it back.

A simple google search of MPD Missing Persons Reports, could have stopped this from occuring. A fact check, after reading and retweeting, could have gone a long way.

https://mpdc.dc.gov/node/1227736 This simple link, could’ve informed the universe about this issue occuring in DC. Straight from the source. Metropolitan Police Department.

As of right now, 11:59 am on Monday, March 27, 2017 — there have been 812 reported missing persons in 2017. 790 of those cases have been closed. THIS IS KEY INFORMATION. This means: 22 Missing Persons Cases in all of 2017 remain open. This does not lessen the seriousness or severity of this issue, however it gives some facts and context to what is really happening in the District of Columbia.

Nevertheless, we must FIND OUR GIRLS. MPD has been working on these cases, and Mayor Bowser recently established a task force to address this issue — meaning work is being done by officials in the city (it has not gone ignored). There are also many organizations who work tirelessly everyday of the year to find missing and exploited children. We must support their work. Donate and volunteer. The average person is still looking for ways to do their part, especially young people in Washington DC who continue to see faces that look like their own go missing everyday.

THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE LISTED EVENT (Courtesy of Twitter: @Simone_hinton)

I came across a graphic last week: DCPS Walkout to Support Missing Girls… I stopped after reading this. It was yet another problem that I had previously addressed. Young people often have this question floating in their minds: What to do when you don’t know what to do? It is easy to turn to a walk out and protest. Most people feel like this is the quickest way to express your discontent, and in many cases it is. You feel as though you have done something with an immediate impact because it trends on twitter or makes it into the local newspaper. I have an unpopular message for all of the students who are thinking about walking out in protest: think again.

I completely understand the desire to do something. We live in a time where we must do something when we experience situations like these. However, now is an appropriate time for a lesson on affective ways to get change. I gave this a lot of thought and I doubted if I wanted to say it or not (because usually I am behind the students 100%) — this is not the time to walk out, this is the time to stand up. Walking out to protest the missing persons cases in Washington, DC is not the appropriate action to take at this time. The world has their eyes on Washington, DC and most are fully aware of the latest developments. Note: the planned walkout is set to take place at the White House (I was puzzled by this). Your protest MUST answer the question of : what do we want? What can be said or done to remedy our issue. Donald Trump has nothing to directly say about this issue, and unfortunately we should not expect him to. If we are interested in addressing this, our local government is the best bet. Engage with your community and find ways to organize to actually get at some solutions. Attend you community and ANC meetings, meet your commissioners, meet your council members, and all elected officials. Of course this is only a personal opinion, and everyone is entitled to protest how they see fit but I believe we must move towards substantive solutions.

Substantive solutions, in this case of missing persons in the District of Columbia is not walking out. Little would be accomplished by this act, other than a feel good moment for young people and something else to tweet. But, if we took time to organize and say “Ok guys, after school we’re going to meet and canvass the neighborhood. OR We’re going to invite our councilmembers to have lunch with us and tell us what is being done about this. OR we’re going to set up a day to volunteer with organizations and MPD that are out looking for these girls (and other missing persons).” There is so much to be done, so many ways to get engaged.

For the sake of every person that remains missing in Washington, DC and especially for Relisha Rudd, the young black girl who has been missing since March 2014 — don’t walk out, stay in school (learn as much as you can), ORGANIZE (as a school, club, community group), and let’s find our girls. #SaveOurSisters #RelishaRudd #OneTooMany #FindMySisters

If you have a tip about any Missing Person please call your local police authorities. For a list of ways to engage and organize in your area (as well as organizations to connect with): a simple google search could go a long way, or email me at tdonaldsondc@gmail.com and I would be happy to connect you with local organizations that are on a mission to #FindOurGirlsDC

Tony Donaldson, Jr

Washington, DC