Families of missing Black women call for same attention as Gabby Petito case

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 4:35 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It seems like each day when you turn on your TV screen, you see Gabby Petito’s face.

Petito, 22, was found dead after she went missing during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend.

The ongoing investigation has started many conversations in homes across America, especially families looking for loved ones.

“I don’t want to get emotional, but I put a little prayer in my heart, and I said, ‘Lord, what about Rajah?’,” Alicia Kirkland said.

Kirkland’s cousin Rajah McQueen has been missing for three months.

McQueen was last seen in a car in Cleveland with her boyfriend.

“My heart goes out to Gabby’s families, but I do find a lot of similarities; they were both with boyfriends, there was domestic violence going on,” Kirkland described.

Despite the similarities, her cousin’s story isn’t being shared among the media and social outlets like Petito’s, she said.

It’s a frustration Paige Coffey’s family knows too well.

Coffey went missing nearly two years ago and was last seen with her boyfriend at Steelyard Commons in Cleveland.

“She also should have that same treatment, and any other young lady of color should have that same treatment. They should be on TV,” said Trinettea Williamson, Coffey’s mother.

Why is Petito’s story trending while McQueen and Coffey have fallen behind?

Is it because Petito had more than 50,000 watching her documentary her last days?

Or is it something else entirely?

“I struggle with saying this, but I’m going to say the hard thing. It’s also because she was a beautiful white woman, and I think in this country, we don’t think someone of color is equally as beautiful and has worth,” said Sylvia Colon.

Colon works with families searching for missing loved ones in Cleveland.

She said the media is to blame for the lack of coverage for people of color and that more interviews are needed.

“If we can keep the momentum going and have a real honest dialogue about what we need to do to keep these cases in the media and the forefront of people’s minds, and this is the way to start. Sadly, this is because of Gabby’s case, but if anything good can come of this, it’s that we’re talking about this now,” said Colon.

According to the Black and Missing Incorporation, nearly 40% of missing persons are persons of color, and right now, Cuyahoga County has more than 300 people on its radar.

“It’s bigger than my cousin. There are other girls who are missing as well that went missing around the same time, and I don’t hear their name in the press. I don’t, and I’ve seen their mothers rally, so I don’t understand what the difference is,” said Kirkland.

For a change, these families are asking for you to remember the names of their loved ones and their faces as well.

“What would you want people to do if that was your cousin, your mother, your sister? What would you want people to share? Wouldn’t you want the same results someone like Gabby was given?”

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