Six hundred and twelve registrants on a mission gathered at National Harbor on May 24. In honor of National Missing Children’s Day on May 25, and to raise awareness about the hundreds of thousands of missing people of color throughout the United States, the second annual Hope Without Boundaries 5K Run/Walk was sponsored by Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. (BAMFI).
FOX 5 Morning News Anchor Allison Seymour served as the race marshal. The event opened with a prayer for the missing, their family members, and participants who offered community support. Strangers and friends lifted each other through a common purpose of giving hope and solidarity. Andre Thomas, a D.C. resident, arrived alone to participate in the Hope Without Boundaries 5K Run/Walk but said that he still felt very comfortable. Chums, Inc. is a social organization that stands with BAMFI by adopting their cause as a yearly project. Event volunteers drove from as far away as Raleigh, North Carolina and Florida, although local participants were plentiful.
“This is my very first walk, and I’m ready,” Michele Curtis said. The Upper Marlboro, Maryland resident found out about the event from someone who attends her church. Curtis also said that she read up on the organization and feels that it is a worthy cause to support.
May 24 was the organization’s sixth year anniversary. BAMFI was founded by Natalie Wilson and Derrica Wilson. The women combined their public relations and law enforcement expertise to provide resources, tips, tools and educational training about personal safety. BAMFI also offers a free clearinghouse which highlights profiles and provides information about missing people of color.
“We need to stop being silent on things that matter. Someone knows something as to what happened to our family. This is a movement. A movement of hope, and a movement of empowerment. When you go home, when you go back to your community, I ask you to empower each other and take action. Let’s find our missing,” said Natalie Wilson.
Derrica Wilson said her involvement in the foundation is a labor of love and reminded that the organization has brought closure and reunions to over 125 families across the country. Money raised will benefit families of the missing. Funds will be used for flyer distribution, victim recovery, financial support and burial assistance.
Relatives of missing people were also in attendance. Several individuals stood up and shared stories of their struggle to find missing loved ones. Some of them distributed business cards, wore personalized t-shirts, and passed out flyers to keep the word circulating about unsolved cases. A button was affixed to Rasheeda Khadar’s shirt. Even 9-month-old Jameel attended with his mother and 11-year old sister, Balquees. Within a group of seven walkers, two sisters were from Rockville Maryland. The other two reside in Ft. Washington, Maryland. It has been fourteen years since her 21-year-old son went missing in August.
“About two years ago our cousin, Ali Khadar, went missing. Two or three people from Black and Missing organization came and helped us to try to find out how to go about finding a missing person, and helped us with getting the word out. Unfortunately, they did find him, but he was dead. We’re just here to support the organization,” Rasheeda Khadar said.
Brenda Adams held a large photo collage. Her sister, aunt, mother, niece and other son rallied around her. It has been fourteen years since her 21-year old son went missing in August.
“It’s like he just vanished off of the earth. It’s hard but I have to keep my faith. ”
Michael Muse, a local musician from Ft. Washington, Maryland, is still hoping to receive a tip about his son’s whereabouts. The single father last saw his nineteen-year-old son, Christian, in 2012. He said that his son’s disappearance on July 15 was mysterious, and that the youth never touched his bank account.
“We’re here today to show a sign of hope and faith that he is still with us. We just want him back. If anybody recognizes him, please call the numbers that you see on the shirts,” he said, tearfully.
John Howard also addressed the crowd. His two young boys were returned home safely.
“I just wanted to say never give up. Never give up. I started up my own thing with hope, helping others push every day, because they helped me when no one would help me. Never give up on your loved one. My kids were found 30 miles from my house in Largo.”
Eric Cathey lives at National Harbor and was the first to finish the Hope Without Boundaries 5K Run/Walk.