By Fern Gillespie
Across the U.S., thousands of Black families are desperately searching for mothers, daughters, and girls who just disappeared. In 2022, more than 80,000 Black females, ages 20 and under, were reported missing according to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Although the majority were found, the NCIC is still actively investigating more than 14,000 missing cases involving Black women.
In New York City, Dawn Rowe, founder of the National Task Force for Missing and Murdered Girls and Women of Color, has made it her mission to help BIPOC families with their search. She is the consultant on developing the New York State BIPOC Missing Women and Girls Task Force and advised the family of missing Brooklyn mom Chelsea Michelle Cobo, who vanished in 2016.
Since 2015, her other nonprofit Girl Vow, Inc, has had a citywide outreach to help disadvantaged girls navigate unimaginable traumas. Her participants range in age from 12 to 24 and deal with personal crises from being housed in Rikers Island to foster care placements to identifying as crossover youth to gangs to chronic poverty to runaways to residing in juvenile justice facilities.
“We actually started writing the legislation for missing and murdered BIPOC women and girls because one of the young girls in our organization went missing,” Rowe explained to Our Time Press. “She was from The Bronx and was friends with someone who led her away. She had just turned 18 and wasn’t abducted. But, she had friendships with the wrong people and trusted the wrong people when she had gone missing. We wound up finding her two years later. When she did return to us, she was in such a state that we didn’t know who she was. She had been raped and sex trafficked.”
Rowe, who interfaces with district attorneys and NYPD on cases, is a faculty member at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, MCNY, a certified Institutional Review Board (IRB) researcher youth motivational speaker. She holds a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Deviant Behavior and Criminology from John Jay College, a Master of Arts in Sociology from Brooklyn College, and a Master’s of Science in Higher Education Administration from the Baruch College City University of New York.
When working with families, she has structured an advice plan. “Contacting 911 is very important to make a police report because you want to make sure the police can capture detailed information that has happened the moment that you filed that that person is missing,” she explained. “I always tell families to call from where the person lives so the police can come to the home. Always have recent photos and descriptions. Have access to social media and make sure you always check it. Utilize social media to get the word out. I always tell parents to make sure they know who their children’s friends are. Phones also play a very pivotal role. It’s important that if your child has a phone, parents get access to the phone records. You must be able to access your children’s friends. Know if there’s a particular place that your child frequents. Know who is your child’s go-to person. If something happens in their life, there’s a go-to person. It’s essential to have as much information as possible and know as much information to share.”
Rowe stresses that creating a media presence is essential to get the word out about the missing family member. “To create a media presence, make sure that the photos and their information can go viral,” she explained. As an advocate, Rowe works with families, providing supportive services, counseling, phone calls, and ensuring they have access to media to tell their stories. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.