Jelani Day, Daniel Robinson, These Are Just a Couple of the Thousands of Missing People Who Need Their Stories Heard Too

While much of the world has been hyper-focused on the Gabby Petito case, and subsequently the search for her fiancé Brian Laundrie, additional conversations have begun as a result. Conversations that ask the question, because there are so many missing people in the world, people like Jelani Day and Daniel Robinson, why did the search for Gabby Petito go viral?

As the story of Gabby Petito began to grow, loved ones of black and brown missing persons began to speak out as well. Parents asked the question why their child’s missing person case wasn’t getting the same attention as Gabby’s?

According to former law enforcement officer Derrica Wilson, and as it has become very evident over the last week, too many missing person cases involving people of color are being ignored. It was this very realization that led Wilson to create the Black and Missing Foundation.

While talking with Today, Wilson said, “I can roll off Sandra Levy, Natalee Holloway, Elizabeth Smart, Caylee Anthony, Gabby Petito. But no one can name one person of color that has received that type of mainstream media. Not one person.”

It’s time to change that. And Jelani Day’s mother agrees.

For those of you who have never heard Jelani Day’s name before today, he was a 25-year-old doctor who wanted to do what he could to help people. Sadly, he was failed.

On August 25, Jelani Day was reported missing. At the time, Day was your average Illinois State University graduate student looking to become a speech pathologist. He was last seen in Bloomington, Illinois. 

Coincidentally, August 25 was also the same day that Gabby Petito last spoke to her parents. Day’s mom questioned why her son’s case wasn’t garnering as much media attention as Gabby’s.

“I do not understand why Jelani doesn’t get that same coverage. Jelani doesn’t get that same attention. Because just like Gabby is important, and I can’t sit in this seat and say I know what her mother is feeling like because she wants her child back, I want my child back too,” Jelani Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, said during an interview.

“And I want them to look for my child too like they are looking for her child. He is not a nobody,” Jelani Day’s mother said. “He is a somebody. I want him to come back home and I want them to give my son the same attention. It makes me mad because this young white girl is getting that attention and my young black son is not.”

According to reports, Day was last seen on August 24. He was known to have a meeting set up with one of his advisors, he grabbed a coffee at a Starbucks, and use his debit card one other time to make a purchase before he went missing.

CCTV video shows Day dressed for his meeting and classes before walking into the coffee shop at 7:20 a.m. He was in a dress shirt, dress pants, and dress shoes.

He never made it to his meeting. According to his advisor, she texted him to see why he never showed up, but he never replied. The advisor tried to meet up with him after his class at 1 p.m., he didn’t show up for that either. As his advisor continued, Day had a patient later that day as well. He never made it to the appointment.

On August 26, his vehicle was found in a wooden area abandoned. On August 23, Day spoke to his mother, he attended classes, and he texted his advisor asking to set up that meeting he had the next day. Nothing seemed to be out of the norm for Day.

What happened to Day between grabbing coffee and his car being found is still under investigation. Sadly, Day’s body was found earlier this month on September 4. 

An Illinois coroner confirmed the body found belonged to Day’s through forensic dental identification and DNA testing. His cause of death was not made public.

“We don’t get the same level of urgency,” David Robinson told Today. “For as much as I really hate to say this, sometimes I think race is a factor.”

Robinson’s son, Daniel, was 24 when he went missing on June 23 in Arizona. His car was found in a ravine by police. Daniel is still missing.

According to Wilson, Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population. However, 40-percent of the 543,018 people reported missing in 2020 are people of color.

“Automatically, law enforcement assumes that these children, they’re runaways, these adults, that they are involved in some sort of criminal activity,” Wilson said. “So they’re basically just swept under the rug.”

The lack of media attention has also affected the Indigenous community. But how do we fix this? We become aware. We open our eyes, we listen, we stop jumping to conclusions.


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