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BSA Lends Their Voice

Olivia Samerdyke, editor-in-chief

A participant in the event tells her story. "On Sept. 7, 2013 Lashawn Griffin went missing, and I'm here to speak for her since she can't speak for herself."

A participant in the event tells her story. “On Sept. 7, 2013 Lashawn Griffin went missing, and I’m here to speak for her since she can’t speak for herself.”

Over Columbus Day weekend in Virginia, 77 children went missing.  Around the country as a whole, the numbers go up into the hundreds.  When a child goes missing, often some media coverage follows to find them.  However, children from minority groups often go without equitable attention, from the media or otherwise.  On Tuesday the 15th, the Black Students Alliance held their first major campaign of the year—Black and Missing—to help raise awareness of this fact.

In a truly all-day event beginning at 7 a.m. members of the club gathered in the nuthouse to paint faces.  Participants painted their faces combinations of white or brown, sometimes adding the names of a child they represented, and the date they went missing.

“The idea of the face paint is to get noticed,” Kourtney Parkey explained as she painted faces.  “People will see it, and be like, ‘why is your face like that?’  Then you can tell them, ‘Today I represent this child whose voice was taken away.’”

At 7 p.m. the B.S.A held the formal part of the event in Hunt, featuring speakers such as Dr. Edward Scott, who opened with a prayer.  MBC student Dimon Brody spoke next, sharing the tragic story of a childhood friend of hers, who disappeared at age 6.  She was later found murdered, after the police delayed the investigation 48 hours.

First Sgt. Scott Downs of the VA State Police followed Brody as speaker.  During his address, he talked about the history of the Amber Alert, a special way police forces and media communicate about missing children—specifically abducted children.  Named after Amber Hagerman, who disappeared and died in 1996, all 50 states and U.S. territories use it; it is also in cooperation with both Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and many European countries.  Over the past year, according to Downs, there have been 84 successful recoveries thanks to the Amber Alert.

When asked about the disparity in media attention given to children of color, he admitted that the media gives more attention to cases the police pay more attention to.

“Dimon’s story broke my heart,” Downs continued, “I would have never waited 48 hours to investigate.  I call them all my children, and it’s my job to bring all my children home.”

After his speech, the Anointed Voices of Praise gospel choir closed the event with a song, which, in their words, “was literally thrown together at the Eleventh Hour.”  Still, they received enthusiastic applause and praise for their work, which matched the general mood of the Black Students Alliance, despite the somber stories and statistics.

The object of the event was to raise awareness, and throughout the day many people asked questions about the face paint.  Two local news stations also covered the event, opening up the campaign to the larger Staunton community.

For more information about missing children, go to the Black and Missing Foundation’s website: http://www.blackandmissinginc.com/cdad/

Amber Alert also works with Google, and a single search brings up the nearest alert.

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