Does Anyone Care When Black Men Go Missing?
4 months ago
Terrance Deon Williams' family is getting some celebrity help, but many more suffer alone
This kind of grounded self-determination is a remarkable achievement for anyone searching for a loved one, says Caison, who also is Williams’ case advocate. Caison's role entails identifying resources, drumming up publicity and providing emotional support. Williams reached out to Caison's organization after feeling like she'd exhausted all good will with the Collier County Sheriff's Department regarding her son's case.The financial strain and psychological trauma associated with what may be an indefinite search for a missing person can tear families apart and send people into a downward spiral.
“A lot of people will even be let go from their jobs. They’ll say, ‘I need to be home in case [he or she calls.]’ They can’t go on as if nothing happened," Caison explains. "The anxiety sets in and it’s difficult to work and thrive. I’ve seen people become homeless because of the trauma of missing a person.”
However, despite the stress, Williams is a fighter, Caison says.
“I’ve watched [Williams] blossom,” said Caison. “She started a life down there because she will not abandon her son."
When she's not working at her job, Williams works to publicize her son's case, making appearances on TV and cable, including MSNBC, TV One, and the Discovery Channel's "Disappeared":
Two weeks ago, after close to a decade since he first vanished, Terrance’s case got a needed jolt of attention when filmmaker Tyler Perry, the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, and Ben Jealous of the NAACP joined Williams in Florida to announce a $100,000 reward for any information on her son’s disappearance and on the disappearance of another man, Felipe Santon. Both men went missing in 2004 after crossing paths with Collier County Sherriff’s Deputy Steven Calkins. Calkins has never been charged with a crime, but he was fired from the force in 2005 after a sheriff's department investigation found that he had been inconsistent in what he had to say regarding his interactions with both missing men.
For his part, Perry says he decided to become involved in hopes of finding justice and answers for both men. He urges civil rights leaders to do more about men of color who are missing. For families of missing persons, particularly missing black people, this kind of media attention and involvement of celebrity is the stuff of dreams.
The financial toll of searching for a loved one can set in much quicker for African American families, according to the Black and Missing Foundation Inc., which works to bring attention to cases involving missing African Americans.
“A lot of them exhaust their savings; something as simple as printing flyers can be costly,” said Natalie Wilson, who co-founded BAMFI in 2008. “A lot of these families are low-income.”
Having the financial and celebrity support of Perry and the others is among the things for which Williams is grateful, even as she continues the difficult task of trying to get answers about what happened to her son.
“I have Monica. I have Al Sharpton. I have Tyler Perry. I have the NAACP. Everyone is all on the same page,” Williams says. “I will probably be trying to wrap my mind around it all for the rest of my life, but I’m not leaving until I find my son.”