Exclusive: Oakland City Council Supports ‘Ebony Alert’ for Missing Black Youth

A new bill in California aims to make what’s called a “Ebony Alert” happen all over the state. Just like an Amber Alert, it will send a push notification to every phone in the area.

This week, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to back Senate Bill 673. This bill would set up an Ebony Alert to help with the lack of attention paid to missing Black youth and young Black women in California.

It has already been approved by the California Senate, so it will now go to the Assembly.

Taneicia Herring, a Government Relations Specialist with the NAACP California Hawaii State Conference, said, “Black people are also people, and we deserve the same empathy and compassion as everyone else.”

The NAACP California Hawaii State Conference told state Senator Steven Bradford of Los Angeles County about the idea of an Ebony Alert. The warning would be for young Black men and women between the ages of 12 and 25 who are Black.

Herring says that a lot of Black teens are labeled “runaways” by the Amber Alert system.

“They don’t get the same resources, and on top of that, you don’t get that Amber Alert. Right now, law enforcement has to have reason to think someone is being kidnapped for the Amber Alert to go out,” Herring said.

The barrier would be different for the Ebony Alert.

“We kind of changed the wording to say, ‘if you’re missing in a strange or unexplained way,'” she said.

Sen. Bradford says that the facts are clear to him. Even though African Americans only make up 14% of the country’s population, almost 38% of the people who go missing every year are African American.

State Senator Steven Bradford, D-Inglewood, said, “It’s unfortunate that in California and in 2023 we need different types of notifications, but we can see from the data that these groups are being ignored when it comes to finding them and using the same amount of resources to help bring them home.”

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

Lyle, who is the Executive Director of an Oakland group called MISSSEY, says that the problem comes up at least once a week.

She said, “Our work has been to help families find their missing children. We work with Love Never Fails and other organizations because we’ve had to do it ourselves because the police haven’t done anything.”

She says that there needs to be a much bigger, more complete plan to help black girls, but that an Ebony Alert is a good place to start.

“We need to care enough to look for them,” she said. “So, if this Ebony Alert will make law enforcement look for missing girls, that’s great.”

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