'Ebony Alert': CA bill aims to create notification system to help find missing Black youth, women

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Friday, June 2, 2023
CA bill aims to create alert system for missing Black youth, women
Senate Bill 673 would establish an Ebony Alert to address the lack of attention to Black youth and young Black women that go missing in California.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- From the signs plastered all over state highways to a push alert on every phone in the area, just like an Amber Alert, there's a new bill that aims to create what's called an "Ebony Alert" across California.

Oakland City Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution in support of Senate Bill 673 this week, which would establish an Ebony Alert to address the lack of attention to Black youth and young Black women that go missing in California.

It's already passed the California Senate and will head to the Assembly next.

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"Black people, we are people as well, and we deserve the same empathy and sympathy just as everybody else," Taneicia Herring, a Government Relations Specialist with the NAACP California Hawaii State Conference said.

The NAACP California Hawaii State Conference brought the idea for an Ebony Alert to state Senator Steven Bradford, of Los Angeles County. The alert would be specifically for Black youth and young Black women between the ages of 12 and 25.

Under Amber Alert criteria, Herring says Black youth are disproportionately classified as "runaways."

"They don't get those same resources and on top of that, you do not get that Amber Alert, currently, the criteria for the Amber Alert is that law enforcement has to believe that there is suspicion somebody is being abducted," Herring said.

As for the Ebony Alert, the threshold would be different.

"We kind of broadened that language to basically, 'if you're missing under a suspicious or unexplained circumstance,'" she said.

Senator Bradford says for him, the data is clear. Although African Americans make up 14 percent of the country's population, they make up almost 38 percent of individuals who go missing every year.

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"It's unfortunate that here in California and in 2023, that we need separate types of notifications but we see through the data that these groups are being ignored when it comes to finding them and dedicating the same level of resources to help bring them home," said State Senator Steven Bradford, D-Inglewood.

"The issues are, what is the value of a Black girl's life and that her life should be valued at the same level as any other girl and that's not happening," Jennifer Lyle, Executive Director of MISSSEY in Oakland said.

Lyle, Executive Director of a non-profit called MISSSEY out of Oakland says her organization sees the problem on at least a weekly basis.

"Our work has been to support families to find their young people, we work with love never fails and other organizations because we've had to do it ourselves, we haven't been able to rely on efforts of police because they haven't taken action," she said.

And while she says there needs to be a much larger comprehensive approach to what's happening to black girls, she says, an Ebony Alert is a good start.

"We need to care enough to look for them, so if this Ebony Alert is going to compel law enforcement to actually look for girls that are missing, excellent," she said.

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