“When I thought about writing something that was true crime-related and something that would flow naturally for me, I wanted it based on something that can also be beneficial to a global culture, and American culture,” Erika Rivers said, entertainment journalist and founder of Our Black Girls.
Our Black Girls is a site and Instagram page where stories of missing/murdered Black women and girls are posted multiple times a week.
“I’m reporting more on what happened. I’m surprised that there have been detectives and authorities who have reached out and have contacted me and thanked me for reporting on certain stories,” she said.
When searching for victims to write about, Rivers noticed many seen on databases as missing have just a small blurb.
“This person’s entire life can’t be boiled down to a sentence and date; that she had brown hair and brown eyes, and was this tall and weighed this much. Like that’s what encompasses her existence right now,” she said.
Lack of representation on the news of missing Black women is also reflected in how many are statistically reported.
“Over 60,000 Black women and girls are missing in the US, and the government database lists I think 1,200-1,300 missing,” Rivers said.
With the lifestyle she had at a young age as a reporter, she can’t help reflecting on how her own life could have ended as a part of that statistic.
“When I was in my early 20s and mid-20s, I lived such a reckless lifestyle. [I was] touring with rock bands on the road, bar hopping, and being kind of crazy and wild. At any point I could’ve been part of the stories that I write about now,” Rivers said.
Rivers believes the momentum from the BLM can fundamentally shift coverage. She views today’s culture and media (mainstream six o’clock news) as centered around what is going on in social media, lead by young adults and millennials.
“ I think that Black people have taken back control over the narrative… we will talk about when someone goes missing now. We can go viral on our own.” Rivers said, “We don’t need a local news station to cover it, we don’t need nationwide coverage…because people are talking back.”
Black women historically have had trouble finding their place in society, not knowing what group they fit into, or if they should form their own.
“We have not been seen as important in any way, shape, or form across the board. And Black women have been fighting for Black women forever, trying to find our place at everybody’s table.” Rivers said, “ I want to help as much as I can with everyone, but when it comes down to it, I have to make sure that my sisters and my culture feel like they are valued, and that somebody has their eyes out for them in case anything happens.”
Reporting these kinds of stories can be hard because sometimes you have to report things the family won’t like. Rivers says she tries to be as sensitive as possible and isn’t trying to, “make any one person or one person’s family take any hits or get attention for the wrong reasons”.
In the end, she would love to do this as a full-time gig and giving back to those she writes the stories about.
“ [To] be able to bring in donations that can be given to these families, and when they have GoFund my accounts, to pay for funerals, to pay for search parties, to help the kids and those left behind and memorial plans.” Rivers said, “I want to make sure that I’m just not capitalizing off of someone else’s pain and anguish for the sake of becoming, you know, this cool website.”
Rivers hopes that people realize everyone deals with the same sort of stuff, even if it is grief, pain, gruesome, and hard to deal with emotionally.
“If I’m able to do something that I love for the rest of my life and I’m just getting paid to hang out… I’m at least doing something that I’m passionate about and helping somebody somewhere,” Rivers said.