Another Black family is left with tears, heavy hearts and unanswered questions about the tragic death of a teen. Jholie Moussa, only 16, was found dead on Friday in a wooded area of Woodlawn Park in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, Virginia, less than a mile from her home. She had been reported missing.
It took two weeks after Moussa disappeared for multiple police departments and the FBI to recover her, a time span that if cut short could have resulted in a search and rescue. She went missing on January 12 after telling her twin sister that she was heading to a party in Norfolk, nearly 200 miles away from her home, NBC Washington reported. Her family, knowing Moussa had behaved oddly but having to wait out the 24-hour time period before reporting a missing child, informed authorities of her disappearance the next day.
Fairfax County police entered Moussa into the National Crime Information Center database as a runaway juvenile. They issued a statement that nothing about the teen’s case indicated that she was in danger. Apparently, her behavior and the mysterious circumstances under which she had gone missing wasn’t enough to alert authorities that something may have been seriously wrong. Detectives spoke with about 20 people who had recent contact with Moussa, police said. The FBI, not citing a specific reason for involvement, lent available resources to the case in a rare move inconsistent with the department’s treatment of some other cases of Black missing children.
Her tragic death is now being investigated as a homicide.
Moussa’s story evoked a painful sadness that Black folks know too well. This sadness was felt when African-American teens disappeared in Washington D.C. and when Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in Chicago in September. There is also a helplessness that grips folks when they hear about tragedies like Moussa, but there are ways that people can help to find missing children. Here are a few things to do on social media:
1) Amplify the child’s story on social media with #BlackGirlMissing or other relevant hashtags: it only takes one tweet to sound the alarm about a missing child in your area or one that you learn about from another city.
2) Start a Twitter chat or create a Twitter Moment about the missing child: This is perhaps an unconventional method, but chats and moments get the word out about a particular subject or issue. Why not encourage others to get involved to help with a search?
3) Film an Instagram or Snapchat video: Videos are already known to be effective in reaching a viewer’s emotions. Shooting a clip can express just how passionate a person is about seeking help to rescue a young person.
4) Check Facebook news feed for AMBER Alerts in your area and share with family and friends: Facebook has been instrumental in helping in police investigations. The social media giant is working with the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children to send out AMBER alerts to users in a specific location when a child has disappeared in their area. The alerts, with detailed information such as a picture of the child and last-known whereabouts, are sent from law enforcement to someone’s cell phone. Several abducted children have been found because of the alerts, ABC News reported.
5) Create A FB event page asking people to help find the child: A Facebook event that is made public gets the word out quickly about a missing person. Folks can create an event to raise awareness about any missing persons in their city, too.
Also, paying attention to your social media feeds can work well. Derrica Wilson, who co-founded the Black and Missing Foundation, posted a Facebook photo of a missing autistic Baltimore teen in March that reached an Uber driver who spotted the teen one late night. The teen was soon after reunited with her mom, according to NPR.
Small tasks can make a huge difference in helping a rescue, not a recovery, effort.