Dayton Gets Real: Missing Minorities

We are taking a deeper look into the media coverage of missing people, specifically why some missing person cases tend to get more media attention than others.

News Center 7′s Brandon Lewis talked with local families and an organization that hopes no missing or trafficked person falls through the cracks.

It’s been more than 20 years since Marilyn Renee Niqui McCown went missing. She was last seen at a Richmond, Indiana, laundromat in July 2001.

McCown’s sister, Michelle McCown-Luster, of Dayton, said, “I’ve been broken so many times in these 22 years. But what’s kept me to keep going outside of my kids and family, it’s been Niqui. I’m determined to find out where my sister is, who’s involved in her disappearance, and what happened,”

>> RELATED: Niqui McCown remembered 20 years after her disappearance

Now, her family is making sure that no one forgets her name. When Niqui disappeared, Michelle said local media coverage helped but national news outlets did not pick up on her story.

“You would love your missing person case to go nationally because you don’t know where they are. They can be anywhere,” McCown-Luster said.

McCown-Luster is the Outreach Coordinator for the Dock Ellis Foundation, which wants to empower minority communities by bringing home missing people. She said the foundation felt different from when they reached out to her.

“It was someone that looked like me. So, I felt like it was someone that understand what I was feeling because I was feeling so defeated because my sister is a person of color. It seemed like nobody was listening to us,” McCown-Luster said.

According to the Black and Missing Foundation, nearly 40 percent of missing Americans are people of color. And there’s unequal media coverage when it comes to missing white people versus minorities.

The foundation thinks the disparity in coverage could be because missing minority adults are sometimes associated with criminal involvement and missing minority children are often classified as runaways.

Jasmine Ellis, CEO and Founder of the Dock Ellis Foundation said, “The media can work better in helping push a positive story. There’s, oftentimes, that you will see somebody reported missing and it’s you know, mother reports son missing, mother believes that son is missing, and then a day later, here comes their criminal record.”

Jasmine, along with Hjordis Ellis, are the co-founders of the Dock Ellis Foundation.

“Everyone deserves the same exact type of attention. If I’m going to give it to little Johnny over here that lives in Beverly Hills that comes up missing, then we need to give the same treatment to little Susie that lives over here in South Central LA when she comes up missing,” Hjordis Ellis said.

For months, News Center 7 has reported on the disappearance of Cierra Chapman. She was last seen at a Trotwood apartment two days after Christmas last year.

Close family friend, Toya Gilliard said, “It’s just the not knowing. Its very mind has you racing. Gets you in a panic with high anxiety,”

>> RELATED: Reward upped for information on Dayton woman missing since December

As the search for Cierra Chapman continues, her family and friends have appreciated the local media coverage.

“They kept the story alive. They kept people informed on what was going on. And, we want to keep that, we don’t want it to die down,” Gilliard said.

The same goes for McCown-Luster. She understands not every missing person will have their story on the news. She suggested news stations show missing person flyers at the end of their newscasts.

Ohio ranks 11th in the country for missing persons, according to the Dock Ellis Foundation. If you have any information that would be helpful in locating Niqui McCown, please call the Richmond Police Department at (765) 983-7247 or the Dayton Police Department at 937-333 COPS.

For more information on the Dock Ellis Foundation, visit their website. And, you can get more information about the Black and Missing Foundation by visiting their website.

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