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.