Just last month, disturbing reports of multiple Black teenage girls reported missing from the Washington D.C. area sparked a nationwide outcry and a concerted effort to bring them home safely.
Among the missing weren’t just girls, however. Black boys are missing, too.
The names and faces of at least five Black boys gone missing in the District since the start of this year have largely become lost in the hysteria and social media attention surrounding the missing girls. Teens Jakeem Pope, 16, and Tymel Wheeler, 15, have both been missing since the first week of April, while Zyaire Flemmings, 15, and Navaras Johnson 14, disappeared in late February. The whereabouts of 17-year-old Clayton Carter, who was reported missing January 11, also remain unknown.
The boys’ images have been circulated in far fewer places than the missing girls’, and social media posts containing pertinent information about them have been shared noticeably less often. Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black & Missing Foundation, explained this could be due to the assumption that boys are better equipped to look out for themselves, when that isn’t necessarily the case.
Moreover, she pointed to the fact that boys tend to go missing for longer periods of time than girls.
“I think the perception is that it’s unusual or uncommon for young boys to go missing,” Wilson told The Root. “We need to change that narrative because it’s not only our girls — our young men are being reported missing as well.”
There are a host of reasons that young boys disappear, she said, including mental health issues, parental abductions and running away from an unstable home. Child sex trafficking also has become a major issue in recent years.
“Sadly, many of our men and boys who go missing are killed,” Wilson added. “I’ve seen that in a number of cases, and we need to look deeper to find out what’s happening.”
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser announced the launch of a task force last month aimed at tackling the underlying issues that may lead to teens and missing children. As previously reported, Bowser’s efforts will increase the number of police officers assigned to locate missing children and implement a task force to determine what social services runaway and missing youths need in order to better stabilize their lives at home.
Leaders at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children have lauded the work of Mayor Bowser and District police, saying one missing child is too many.
“We encourage the public to share posters of the missing children featured on our website as well as those listed on the website for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department,” Robert Lowery, the VP of the NCMEC’s Missing Children Division told Atlanta Black Star in an e-mailed statement. “Runaway children are especially vulnerable and can often encounter dangerous situations while they are away from home.
“With the public’s continued support and assistance, law enforcement and NCMEC can continue to work diligently to get these children back to safe environments.”
As of now, as many as nine Black boys and young men remain missing from the D.C. area, including Cherenet Assegid, 24, Dionte Monk, 23, Kejuan Sellman, 17, and Christian Muse, 24, who disappeared from neighboring Prince George’s County, Md., in 2012.
The DC Metropolitan Police Department didn’t respond to requests for comment.