The Federal Bureau of Investigation found more than 225,000 African-Americans reported missing in 2012. Children of color comprise 65 percent of all the missing-person’s cases investigated in 2012. We rarely see their faces flash across our television screens during Amber Alerts, but the Jeannette Lambs, Diamond Bradleys, Nicole Yates and other kidnapped children of color deserve the love that leads police to search for them long after the leads have dissipated.
The fictional film “Muted” explores the media’s erasure of missing children of color. The main character is Lena Gladwell, a divorced mother with two children. Her worst fears are realized when her teenage daughter disappears and local law enforcement and media outlets devote little attention to recovering her.
A press release describes “Muted” as “a story like many others” used “in an effort to un-mute the cases of missing minority children by raising national awareness.”
“Muted” asks the question: What is the worth of a child?
Actress, writer and producer Brandi Ford decided to write “Muted” when she learned how inactive the media was in the searches for Mitrice Richardson, Phoenix Coldon and Romona Moore. Richardson, 25, was found dead in Malibu, Calif. in 2010. She had been missing for more than six months. Phoenix Coldon, 24, is still missing. She disappeared in St. Louis in December 2011. Her case has received minimal media coverage. Moore was 21 when she disappeared from her New York neighborhood in 2003. The police closed her case as soon as she vanished while she was being raped, beaten and tortured in a basement. Moore was killed four days after she was abducted.
Law enforcement and media outlets didn’t actively pursue these cases, leading Moore’s mother, Elle Carmichael, to file a civil case against the New York Police Department. She claims officers told her to wait 24 hours to file a report since her daughter was 21. When Carmichael phoned again, a detective told her, “Lady, why are you calling here? Your daughter is 21. These officers should not have taken the report in the first place.” The complaint was closed April 26, one day after Moore went missing and two days before her death.
The media’s response to Moore’s disappearance was also sluggish. Carmichael called outlets, but no reporter was interested in covering it.
Carmichael’s heartrending ordeal mirrors that of many other parents of color searching for their children. She believes the lack of investigation into her daughter’s disappearance was motivated by race.
“I don’t see any other reason but race and class,” Carmichael told the Village Voice. “If this was a white kid, they would never had done this. I had to say to the detectives one day: ‘You know, I feel the same emotions and pain as a white person.”
She also thinks her daughter would still be alive if the police and media were more proactive when she disappeared.
The Village Voice reports:
Carmichael says that had the cops called a press conference asking for help in finding Romona, her abductors just might have gotten spooked and let her go. She may be right. Even the killers were upset by the lack of coverage by the press and TV. It turned out that Pearson and Hendrix were regularly following the news then. A 15-year-old girl who was eventually able to escape after being kidnapped by the duo after they tortured and killed Romona testified at their murder trials that she heard the two complaining about the absence of stories about them.
“They put people on the news for doing stupid shit like jumping off roofs,” she heard one of the men tell the other. “After this, we better get on the news.”
The cruelty of Moore’s death and the media and police’s lack of response angered Ford. In an email, she said it made “her blood boil.”
Ford hopes “Muted” will shine a spotlight on the injustice missing children of color and their devastated families face, but the film needs financial support to be released. Ford and her team, including director Rachel Goldberg and producer Tara Tomicevic, have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 for “Muted.”
The funds will be used to finish shooting and editing the short film. The campaign has raised more than $3,700. There are still 19 days to donate.
Filming for “Muted” is scheduled to begin in August.