Lighthouse in Santa Cruz
Lighthouse in Santa Cruz
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Civic Life

March at Lighthouse Point on Saturday hopes to raise awareness of missing women of color

UC Santa Cruz student Faith Brown is looking to combat “missing white woman syndrome” with a march Saturday at Lighthouse Point. The event starts at 2 p.m.

When Black, Indigenous and other women of color go missing, media coverage is often much quieter than if the person was white — something a UC Santa Cruz first-year student is working to help change by way of a march in Santa Cruz Saturday.

The event will start at Lighthouse Point at 2 p.m. and end at 103 Emmett St., the former location of the El Camino Mission Bell, at 5 p.m.

Faith Brown, 18, said she started working on the event two months ago.

“It’s nerve wracking,” she said about the planning process. “But I’m hoping that it’ll bring more attention to missing women, and hopefully we can make a change around that.”

According to the 2020 National Crime Information Center missing and unidentified person report, 268,884 girls and women were reported missing in 2020. Of the missing women, a third were Black — a group that only makes up 15% of the total female population according to the U.S. Census.

Brown, who is Black, said that “missing white woman syndrome” — coined by late journalist Gwen Ifill — is a real thing. She pointed to the case of Gabby Petito — killed under mysterious circumstances this summer — that led national headlines for weeks as the latest instance of the trope.

“Obviously the Gabby Petito story hit media coverage and I felt that this was really important especially for women of all ages,” Brown said. “This is something that couldn’t be put off.”

Thairie Ritchie, who is scheduled to speak at the march, said the goal isn’t less coverage of missing white women, but about giving missing women of color the same kind of coverage.

“I think it sparked a lot of frustration and a lot of tension between communities which shouldn’t happen,” he said. “I think overall, it should be more coverage and support for all women”

Ritchie and Brown said they hope that attendees will be able to take away a better understanding of the topic.

“One big key to developing that awareness is listening to stories and speeches from organizers,” Ritchie said. “And then carrying those stories into their own social circles where they’ll be amongst their friends, family, or colleagues and make it more of a social conversation where more ears will be listening.”

Ritchie said that he’s looking forward to the event.

“I’m very inspired by [Brown] as a young activist in this position, given her age and being a woman of color herself to be able to put on this extraordinary event,” Ritchie said. “I was really inspired and I really want to follow and support that.”

Brown said Santa Cruz artist Mak Nova is slated to perform at the event, but has not yet solidified the full list of speakers. Masks are not required but are highly encouraged.