Have you seen Mikayla Wilson?
Dear Levi Henry of the Westside Gazette
My name is Earnestine W. McGowan, and I’m writing you because I don’t know what else I can do.
My granddaughter, Mikayla Wilson, has been missing since October 7-8, (last year) this year. She ran away before, but she always came back home. Lauderhill police brought her home at least twice. I’m really worried about her. I want my granddaughter to be home with her family where she belongs.
I don’t know if you do missing children in your paper. But please let me know. My number is (954) 607-8754, and I live at St. Joseph residence, 3475 N.W. 30 St., Apt 318.
My daughter does not know I’m writing this, but what else can I do? I’m really worried about my granddaughter.
I pray every day that she will come home. I’m so sick with worry about her, and she has not called anyone to say that she is ok.
By Nichole Richards
Black youth waywardness typically conjures images of young Black males, ages 14 to 17, seduced by the streets’ empty promises of power and respect, yielding guns like swords, and trading stocks and bonds in the form of pills and powder. This image dominates American fears and single-handedly structures policies and laws, from education to criminal justice. In response, conversations and programs persist to understand why Black male youth are drawn to chaotic street culture, aiming to transform the inner dialogue, convincing them authority and acceptance can be found there.
Despite good intentions, these conversations follow the same historic pattern of positioning the Black male in the center of Black issues, ignoring the unique experiences of Black female juvenile delinquency and rebellion. If March’s #MissingDCGirls campaign taught us anything it was that there are also ebony girls lured by the uncertainty of the streets disguised as freedom and love, who leave their homes in search of something more only to be victimized in soul shattering ways men will never understand. What about their inner dialogue? What persuades a young girl to willingly place herself in such a terrifying state of vulnerability?
Everyday Black girls are making the same decisions as their male counterparts to leave their homes, for whatever reason, and seek what they think will be freedom of choice and self. The response by the media and the police remain the same: silence and inactivity. And in the meantime, our girls are floating further away, some disappearing into drugs or sex trafficking, never to be seen again, and others feeling too battered by the streets, too ashamed to return home, although they are sorely missed.
Earnestine McGowan’s letter to The Westside Gazette is one of many examples of the gaping hole left in families when teens leave. Mikayla Wilson, 17, has been missing since October 2016, appearing every now and then, only to go further underground when spotted. Her third time running away, Mikayla had only been home for a couple months before leaving again. A former Piper High School student, she has a history of delinquency and low academic performance.
“It started when she as in ninth grade,” said Mikayla’s mother, Kimberly Wilson, “She started skipping school. I put her in an alternative school, then she started to show up only twice a week.”
Mikayla would sneak out at night while her family slept to hang out with boys and smoke marijuana. Once, she was caught driving on the wrong side of the road and brought home by the police.
“I tried to have a conversation with her but she said she wanted to do other stuff and just didn’t want to be home.” said Ms. Wilson.
Reports to the Lauderhill Police Department have proven useless. Ms. Wilson is unable to say exactly what is being done to find her daughter, although she has sent Mikayla’s picture and received counseling from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which has since been discontinued.
Lauderhill Police Department’s Detective Bureau for Missing Persons was nonresponsive to requests for comment.
Therefore, the family has taken searching for Mikayla into their own hands, posting flyers around the neighborhood and enlisting Mikayla’s younger and older sister, Tyna, 14, and Diamond, 21, to scour Mikayla’s social media accounts for clues of her whereabouts. Every now and then, the family would receive calls and tips of a “Mikayla sighting” at a cornerstore or hanging at an apartment complex, but somehow she would get wind of the tip and disappear before family members arrived to convince her to come home. Understandably, this has taken an emotional toll on the entire family.
“I don’t get much sleep because I am worried all the time,” admitted Ms. Wilson, “Every time I hear sirens or watch the news it is nerve wrecking.”
Despite their efforts, the family has hit a wall. Mikayla’s eighteenth birthday is quickly approaching (June 9t) and Ms. Wilson fears she is attempting to hold out until she is a legal adult and can emerge from hiding, free to legally do whatever she wants. The world knows without a high school diploma or income, she would realistically not able to do much, but Mikayla’s runaway status has proven she lacks the ability to make sound judgement.
“I don’t understand how you could walk out of the house with just the clothes off your back at 17 years old,” adds Ms. Wilson, “It is very confusing.”
Mikayla’s story is not particularly unique, but the confusion is the same. Like Black male youth, Black female youth walk away from home for similar reasons (restrictions, a desire for autonomy), but the reality that awaits them on the other side could not be more different. For girls, the risks are far greater, and in a strange twist of fate, they often lean heavily on their male counterparts for protection and support, exposing them to a more frightening reality of victimization and exploitation. There are levels to this.
When asked what next steps she will take, Ms. Wilson takes a long pause.
“We keep looking for her,” she responded, “We keep the flyers up. What else can we do?”
If you know the whereabouts of Mikayla Wilson, please contact the Lauderhill Police Department at (954) 497-4700 or The Westside Gazette at (954) 525-1489.