After being made aware of the recent rash of disappearances of little girls of color in the Washington, D.C. area, and the lack of coverage of the disappearances on national media outlets, Ariell R. Johnson — owner and founder of Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse — decided the girls needed someone to look out for them, be their voice and help find them.
This mission has led to what is billed as the “Black and Missing Benefit Concert,” which will feature local musicians and run Saturday, July 29, from 8:30 p.m. to midnight at Amalgam (2578 Frankford Ave). Tickets are $25 and all proceeds will go to the “Black and Missing Foundation, Inc.” (BAMFI).
BAMFI is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety.
“What they do is advocate for black and brown victims, persons across the country,” Johnson said. “They do that by sharing videos and information about the missing persons on social media and other news outlets. They also have safety classes and teach communities of color how to stay safe.
“The reason this organization exists is because there’s a discrepancy on the reporting of missing persons when those persons are people of color,” Johnson continued. “So, they try to level the playing field so that everybody is getting full time and attention, because that impacts the likelihood that we will find these people — and find them okay.”
While Johnson said she was inspired to act by news of the D.C. disappearances, this is a nationwide problem that hits everyone everywhere. In Philadelphia, the statistics are alarming.
“Currently, 661 people remain missing from Philadelphia,” said BAMFI’s Natalie Wilson. “Events like this concert not only shed a light on the issue, but continue the conversation about this often ignored group. We hope the attendees will go back to their communities empowered to help us find them.”
“I wanted to do something to support an organization that’s already on the ground doing the work,” Johnson said of BAMFI. “One that insists that we take action rather than forget about it. That is their mission, which is important, because often times it’s black and brown children — specifically girls — that go missing.
“Too many people think the cause is not that crazy people abducted them. Too many think they went missing because they aren’t good kids or whatever. That is never the narrative when the person missing is white,” she stressed. “So we want to change that narrative.
“And that is why we want to give this group the money we raise to help fund their mission and the good work they’re doing,” Johnson added.
According to Johnson, that work includes contacting people in the media, getting the word out to law enforcement officials and working with the families of the missing to create social media sites. Additionally, she said they distribute fliers in the vicinity of where each missing person disappeared, and give support to families because, she’s learned, people have mental health needs after these things happen.
“When I found out about this group, I could have just sent $25 to them as an individual — but I was thinking a collective of people could have a greater impact.”
Johnson said that the event will have entertainment and refreshments.
“For people who can’t make it to the event or feel that $25 is a bit too steep, we do have a donation button (on the Amalgam site),” Johnson said. “We will have little appetizers provided by Intimate Romantic Visions and wine will be provided by Black Walnut Winery.”
“All the performers are volunteering their time. All the doormen are local to Philly,” Johnson said. “Everybody who is performing are black women, because I felt that was important to show support for and by black and brown girls. We’ll also have a representative from BAMFI here, with a video showing testimonials and people who have been helped by them. We will also give stuff away to people who want to become monthly donors or something similar.”