What About Stepha?

My most sincere apologies on the lateness of this story. It’s been almost a month since Stepha Henry went missing. But still, I gotta speak my piece, and I hope that by continuing to discuss these issues, we continue to raise her profile and keep hope for her recovery alive.

How many times do we have to hear the same kind of tragic stories bubbling through the grapevine before there is change? Stepha Henry is just the latest black woman to go missing, and the disparity in the news coverage her story has recieved compared to other missing women is both tragic and troubling.

It seems that you have to possess specific physical characteristics to get mainstream media attention in general, much moreso if you’re a missing person. First of all, you have to be female. Missing men hardly ever get news coverage. Under 30, for sure. Pretty, definitely. White, certainly. Preferably blonde, and if you’re pregnant, jackpot. Wikipedia calls it the missing white woman syndrome. Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin refers to it as the Missing Pretty Girl Syndrome, a term I disagree with because the underlying insinuation is that black women aren’t considered pretty.

The syndrome was lampooned in The Daily Show’s America the Book as an equation:
Minutes of Coverage = Family Income * (Abductee Cuteness/Skin Color)2 + Length of Abduction * Media Savvy of Grieving Parents.

I don’t say this in any means to take away from the current mainstream media missing white woman — Jessie Davis, and I sincerely hope that she too is found safely. But even a simple Google News search reveals an undeniable difference in how much attention her story is getting in relation to Stepha Henry’s.

I feel especially close to Stepha’s story, because we have a lot in common. She’s a bright, smart, ambitious Trini, who came to Miami to attend a reggae concert (I can only imagine it was the Best of the Best concert that I was dying to attend, if only to see Barrington Levy again). The weekend that Stepha spent with her auntie in Miami Gardens, I was spending in Doral with my visiting relatives. After the concert she went up to Broward county, to either Sunrise or Fort Lauderdale — America’s Most Wanted says to Club Peppers, other sources call it Peppers Cafe. From that point, the story gets murky.

We know that Stepha left the club with a man in a four-door Acura Integra that police have been searching for. According to this Nancy Grace transcript, Miami-Dade Police Department detective Nelda Fonticella says that she was in the vehicle at some point in the evening, but the driver is not a person of interest at this time. Establishing a timeline has been difficult, and because of the volume of out-of-town visitors in the city that weekend, it’s even harder to get answers or clues in the search for Stepha.

And where other missing women have gotten heavy news coverage — Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, and Natalee Holloway come most immediately to mind — there are any number of missing women of color who never get the attention that their stories deserve.

Tamika Huston‘s remains were found more than a year after she was first reported missing. Latoyia Figueroa‘s story parallelled Laci Peterson’s, but never got the press attention. Her body was eventually discovered and the father of her unborn child was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. Leslie Marva Adams, missing since October 2005. Thirteen year old Reyna Alvarado-Carerra, who was abducted days before Natalee Holloway, never found.

I pray that Stepha Henry’s fate isn’t anything like the other missing women of color I’ve mentioned. I hope she is found soon, and that she is alive and okay. It’s been almost a month since her parents last heard from her, EURweb reports that her parents are here in Miami and her mother plans to stay until she knows what happened to her.

Read more about Stepha at Project Jason. Anyone with information should call Miami-Dade Det. Brigette Robert at 305-418-7200 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.

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Comments

  1. It’s a tough world out there. I can cite so many instances of unjust missing persons coverage. But all we have to do is pray for her safe return and spread the word, if the news media won’t do it, then we just have to.

  2. According to this story,
    http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2007/06/who_is_stepha_h.html
    Even Paris Hilton is more important than a missing black woman. It really hurts my heart.

  3. This is a terrible thing that has happened. Good on you afrobella for mentioning it because at least there is some light shed on since mainstream media won’t.

  4. I agree with ceecee. Also, many times they say it is more of a moral judgment situation that color, as in the instance of Laci and Latoiya (married/not married) or with Kelsey Smith and Kara Kopetsky (even though the latter was white, too, but poorer). However, it can be seen that that is not the case — as with Jessie, her children are by a married man. In any event, when a person is missing, their morals are not the issue…what is being done to them, has been done to them is. Crimes against all women are rampant, and women of color especially so. Essence had a very nice article about this whole situation some time ago.

  5. afrobello says:

    I’ve actually heard more about Stepha than I ever expected to, but not nearly enough. The new case regarding Jessie Davis has already blown her plight out of the water. There simply isn’t anything titillating enough about Stepha’s story to interest our media.

  6. Also, I would like to add that I think it is another instance of blaming the victim of a crime when the circumstances of their life or the situation in which they disappeared is highlighted, instead of the fact that a crime was committed against their person.

  7. Bella,
    thanks for putting the spotlight on Stepha Henry and many others that I knew nothing about..The victims listed on the post were all new to me and that’s so sad…the media gives major attention to L. Lohan, P. Hilton, N. Richie and B. Spears to name a few and a missing person doesn’t get a third of the media’s attention. I have heard about Ms. Henry, but not nearly as much as I should have….her story should be everywhere…it’s really heart breaking to say the least. I pray for her safe return or moreso, for God’s will to be done. I will forward your post to my family & friends and they to can forward it….I want to keep the flame burning in this case…every little bit helps. Thanks again, Bella for your efforts in keeping this story alive….be blessed!

  8. This is really unfair that a person of color does not get the amount of urgency that a white wome would. It’s true that you only hear of the pretty white women being abducted. But they are not the only ones going through this problem. It’s unfair that the media would rather spend two hours on the abduction of one women rather than spend an hour on each just to ensure the safe return of both. I hope in any event both women are found

  9. Bridgette says:

    This is such a sad case. I pray that she is found alive. Thanks for posting this story. Although the national media seems to not be interested, the internet provides another way to get a story out to many people all across the globe.

  10. I agree with ceecee and star. It’s important to do just what your doing and put the word out. If we feel that enough attention isn’t being given to a certain situation we should give it ourselves. I think it’s great that afrobella gave out details of where she was last seen, and contact information if anyone could help. Often times I see people discussing this lack of coverage situation but only to complain, and not to put the word out themselves. Maybe you could start periodically adding current lost ones to your posts (in addition to the lost ones that are already gone)with pictures and contact information for anyone who may know something. If more blogs caught on and started doing the same thing we would be making our own coverage. Remember that blogs are powerful, and thousands of eyes see them.

  11. re: Peajai’s comment — that’s how I first heard about Stepha Henry! I was surfing around and stumbled over a mention of an interview about her disappearance being bumped for Paris Hilton coverage. I was just flabbergasted. I think it was a couple days after that that CNN.com first had a story about Henry, which quickly vanished from the front page of the site.

  12. what is really heartbreaking is that people didn’t learn about her story because she was missing, it was because of the lack of attention her story got. a friend i were discussing this story and she made a point, that on top of racism it is lookism also. the women who got attention to their stories were typically blond, young and height and weight proportioned.

  13. It is a disgrace. The media is in love with white, young, missing women. Too hell with everyone else. I’m soo sick of the complete lack of coverage for missing minority women that I have lost all concern for missing white women. Extremely sad but very true!

  14. I pray they find her alive and healthy. It is unfortunate how the media covers our community missing reports. Unfortunately it is just as sad how often we are disinterested in discussing these important issues. Another blog talked about this right after she was said to be missing, the blog has great readership and good commentary on a range of topics. However to his and my dismay when he mentioned the fact taht she was missing and the lack of coverage on her as opposed to white women gone missing, nobody commented at all. Je later mentioned it again and said how sad it was that we comment on stars and entertainers and ohter celebs and their dysfunctions, but when one of us is the topic of discussion we are mum.

  15. JUstMYwOrD says:

    Well, I have to say I am ashamed that Ihave never heard of this girl’s missing status…I don’t know if I’m to blame for that or the media, I think it’s safe to say it’s probably a little of column “A” and a little of column “B”. Prayers are an automatic reaction to this kind of news, but I agree as a community we have to voice thses concerns. I know from any media coverage of white females who are abducted or missing, they cover an intimate story, the life and home, community that this person has been taken from. Quality of life seems to be respected more on the “cleaner” side of the tracks, but if you are presumed to come from a community that’s already seen with little vaule, the quality of life is esteemed based upon the community associated with it, which shows that what our society promotes as valuable as a whole is very off centered and a long way from truth. IMO, This type of media neglegence falls under the multi “ism” category (racism, classism, sexism).

  16. So how come you just reporting bout it, ey?
    LOL!!!

  17. JUstMYwOrD says:

    Devon, you couldn’t have possibly thought that joke was appropriate or remotley funny. It’s not cool or witty to show insensitivity or make light of serious topics. Your childishness is about as charming and unique as a butthole.

  18. Oh, snap! I was about to address Devon’s comment, but JustMyW0rd, you beat me to the punch. I might not always be the first person to post something, but I had to say something about this and I will be the first to admit that I waited too long as it is. I could go into a long explanation about how hard it is to balance a full time job with a full time blog (and have a life in between), but I won’t. This is about Stepha Henry, and even though I’m adding to the chorus four weeks late, at least we’re talking about her, thinking about her, praying for her.

  19. Bebroma says:

    Monica, I understand how you might feel that way, but don’t let the racially biased media take one ounce of your compassion away from you. It is so hard when we see injustice to not want to respond in kind, but then we are letting them change us and have power over the way we think and feel. That is exactly the power that they have used over the mainstream and why the mainstream as a whole feel we are not as important and that are lives are not worth just as much to our families, friends, communities, and yes the world.

  20. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about this young woman missing.

  21. Big ups to Nancy Grace though for making a conscious effort to display women of color who come up missing. She even had a show on why Black women don’t get the media coverage. I love me some Nancy Grace.

  22. I am glad that Nancy Grace covers ALL missing persons..over here in Trinidad it was reported in the papers that the night that the police were going to get real air time the station pulled it because they had to report on..Paris Hilton in jail…

    Like Afrobella I hope they find her alive & well….and althought this blog didn’t comment on this situation until sometime later it is commendable that it even posted something on it.

  23. Davina E says:

    Hey afrobella, I am so glad that you did a post about Stepha Henry. I live in Ohio and not to diminish the importance of Jessie Davis, but Stepha has been missing for almost a month and she has received very little or close to no coverage until Nancy Grace last night. It is so sad that we still have to deal with race issues even when comes to missing persons. It should be equal coverage for all missing. But then that would make it a perfect world, and unfortunately we do not live in one. Which is so sad.

  24. I was just thinking about Stepha Henry today because with so much coverage here in Ohio about Jessie Davis I had wondered what was going on with this case. I pray for Stepha Henry’s safety and her family.

  25. jerseybred says:

    I pray Stepha Henry is found alive. I love the determination of her mother-she refuses to leave Miami until she is found.

  26. mochachoc says:

    Hi Bella
    its been awhile since i checked in but i thought i would reply to this post and admit a misinformed effect of the biased media reporting. I live in London and the biased reporting has led me to erroneously believe that white women and girls are the victims of serial killers, paedophiles, breast cancer and skin cancer but not Black women. I know this isn’t true but I often forget because when these issues are highlighted it is nearly always with white women and girls in mind. It is as though the media has unwittingly engendered the notion that certain crimes have a racial and gender profile. what this leads to is a complacency on the part of the public (me including) that Black women and girls are not abducted, men and boys are not raped or that Black people cannot get sunburn. I remember when I first got ill and a junior doctor suspected multiple sclerosis only for the consultant to take one look at me and declare without examining me that it couldn’t be MS. According to him people of African descent didn’t get MS. What a load of BS and completely unintelligent. this makes me wonder whether this kind of biased thinking exists within the police force. when a black woman goes missing do they instantly dismiss the idea that she has been abducted and killed. what kind of faulty logic goes on in the mind when they discover a black woman has gone missing? Black women need to be protected and talked about with the same level of seriousness as white women.

  27. AndSoThen says:

    Thanks Bella for putting the spotlight on Stepha Henry. I am a true crime buff and follow lots of these cases and it angers me that each and every time, color is an issue in the media when it comes to which case they will champion. In Jessie Davis’s case, the horror of it is so much more salacious. It helps that her baby daddy is a black married cop, who is a Person of interest/suspect in her case.
    Stepha’s case is so odd to me becasuse there are so obvious things being overlooked so its seems the efforts are not the same. I pray for her family and her safe return and all bloggers and blog readers pass her name and story along please. We can be our own media on the net, do not let us lose this smart, educated wonderful black woman.

  28. Bebroma says:

    They say they found Jessie, have arrested the boyfriend…maybe if there were 1000 people looking for Stepha, she could be found, too.

  29. Annazayla says:

    I think the lack of media coverage surrounding Stepha’s disapperance is due to her race. There is not ONE excuse, reason, or explanation that can be given as to why this beautiful young women has received more than less media coverage than the other missing women (white women: Jessie Davis and Lisa S.).

  30. Thanks for posting about this too Afrobella. I heard about it and posted a blog the day I heard about it back on June 15th (it was the 15th here in Seoul but the 14th back home as we’re one day ahead here). I also sent it out on both MySpace and Facebook.

    I think that by taking action we can make a difference. We’ve started a blog called Missing Minorities to that end: http://missingminorities.blogspot.com/

    Here is a very detailed blog on Stepha’s case: http://www.crimesceneblog.com/?p=535

    Let’s take action and stop waiting for the media. When we hear about these stories let’s email our friends, send notices out on MySpace or whatever networks we’re on and, if we have blogs, let’s blog it.

  31. I HEARD OF THIS STORY ON AMERICA’S MOST WANTED THIS PAST SATURDAY, AND I AM HAPPY THAT THEY DID BROADCAST THIS STORY B.C IT IS REALLY RARE THAT BLACK WOMEN THAT ARE ABUSED OR MISSING ARE BEING BROADCASTED ON THEIR LOCAL NEWS OR ON NATIONAL NEWS. MY PRAYERS ARE W HER FAMILY AND I PRAY SHE IS FOUND SAFE AND SOUND

  32. we all know that a missing black girl is not going to get as much media attention as a missing white girl. We have to start getting the information out our selves among our comunity through websites like this. BET would be a good start they should have room to something positive with all that other garbage they show.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] The vivacious graduate student disappeared during this year’s Memorial Day festivities here in South Florida. The search continues, and her family and friends continue to pray for her safe return. They recently held a vigil at a church in Miramar, as an expression of their faith that she is still alive, and as a reminder that the search for Stepha continues. [...]

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