TikTokers Are Now Highlighting Missing People Of Color After The Gabby Petito Case

"It's been proven, most recently with the Gabby Peto case, that TikTok is able to blow up a missing persons cases and get that family access they need in order to bring that person home."
Courtesy Seve Day Jelani Day

Layla Jama, a Canadian TikTok user going by TTDrama posted two videos about Gabby Petitios' case earlier this week. Many of her 747,000 Twitter followers commented under her content with the hashtag #FindJelaniDay. Jama, who calls herself a storyteller and uses her platform to discuss Jelani Day (25-year-old Black man) who was missing for over a month in Illinois. On Thursday, police confirmed that the body of Jelani Day had been discovered in the Illinois River on September. 4. 4. Jama's TikTok featured an emotional clip of Days mother Carmen Bolden speaking on Newsy. Bolden broke down in tears as she pleaded with Jama for the same attention Petitio, a 22-year old #VanLife influencer, was receiving. Petitio disappeared last month while on a cross country road trip with Brian Laundrie. (Petito died in Wyoming after being found. An arrest warrant has been issued for Laundrie who disappeared. Gabby, the girl who is missing, I know, Bolden stated in the Sept. 17 clip. She's been missing for 2 days, her face is everywhere, and the FBI is involved. I don't understand why Jelani doesn't get the same coverage.

She said that she wanted them to search for my child as if they were looking for her. He is not a nobody. He is somebody. It makes me mad that this young girl of color is getting all the attention while my son is being ignored. It has been proven, most recently in the Gabby Petito Case, that TikTok can help locate missing persons and provide the family with the resources they need to bring them home. @TrueCrimeCam shared another viral TikTok that highlighted Jelanis' case Tuesday.

As of Thursday, the hashtag #FindJelaniDay was viewed 9.5 million times on TikTok. The hashtag #GabbyPetito is currently viewed 919 million times.

Jama said that Gabby's case was what sparked Jelanis' case. Jama spoke to BuzzFeed News Wednesday, one day before the death of his father. Jama stated that Petitos' case became viral and Black TikTok users began to have conversations about how Petitos' cases are handled. Some of her followers even DMd Jama to ask her to write about Jelanis' case. Petitos disappearance and subsequent killing has created a national obsession with the young, black woman whose Instagram photos have dominated news feeds. This highlighted the stark disparity in media coverage of cases involving missing white women and those involving people from color.

True crime fans on Twitter and TikTok created the national obsession. They shared their theories and updated their followers with regular updates.

According to Seve Day, the world is in a panic when a Black woman goes missing and a white woman does not. This was just a day before his brother's death was confirmed. He said, "We can see by the color of our skin how much attention a case receives." It's sad that I have to do this comparison. I sympathize with the family, but this missing person case has been ongoing for only 2 days. It has received 100x more media attention than my brother Jelani Days. Dacara Bolden wrote in a Facebook post Sept. 16 referring to Petitos. My brother is missing since August 24,2021! It's been 23 days! Jelani, who wanted to be a speech pathologist, was reported missing Aug. 25, just 23 days after he was last seen at the Bloomington cannabis dispensary and on campus of Illinois State University. His clothes and car were found in a Peru wooded area 60 miles north of Bloomington. Although investigators discovered a body in the Illinois River on September 4, it took almost three weeks for them to confirm that it was him.

Although his disappearance was covered by local media, it faded quickly until the media attention on Petitios case encouraged users of social media to look into stories about missing people of color. It shouldn't surprise me that I am still hearing about it. One Twitter user stated that you should blow this case up like Gabby and #FindJelaniDay. Although I don't know anything about the case, let us get the same energy going for #LaurenCho to help locate her, as we did for #GabbyPetito," another Twitter user shared in a widely shared tweet. This was in reference to the case of the woman, aged 30, from New Jersey who vanished in Yucca Valley in California on June 28.

Although I don't know anything about the case of Lauren Cho, let's get the same energy going for #LaurenCho Twitter: @hollyjollyscrun

Another viral tweet brought attention to Daniel Robinson (a Black geologist) who was reported missing from the desert near Buckeye, Arizona on June 23.

It shakes me to read about Gabby Petito's discovery in Wyoming. As we watch this case unfold, take five seconds to read about Daniel Robinson. He was a geologist who disappeared in the Buckeye desert three months ago. His father is still searching for him. Twitter: @JournalistShay

Seve did not believe Petitos' case brought attention to his brother's story. He instead credited his friends and family who kept posting and tweeting about Jelani, so that his story was not overshadowed or dominated by a white woman.

Jama, the TikTok user agreed that people were focusing on Jelanis' case due to his family's social media outreach. She said that she highlighted the video of Jelanis' mother crying in TikTok to help people relate to the pain of a family member. Jama spoke with Jelanis brother and mother to learn more about his disappearance. This would bring the case to the attention of the public and help internet sleuths to solve it. She said that social media loves a good story. She said that social media loves a good story. Jama stated that social media has helped to increase public pressure for authorities to be more transparent and act faster. John Fermon, the Bloomington police's public information officer, stated that aside from some bad tips that distracted investigators, he is happy with the amount of attention that the case has received. Fermon spoke to BuzzFeed News the day before Jelanis' death was confirmed. He said that police have strict policies about how much information they can release on missing persons cases. He said that authorities will not release information about high-risk missing persons unless they have the authority to do so. It was up to the media and social media to decide if it is an interesting case. Jama stated that Jelanis' case would have attracted interest regardless of Petitos case. She said that the attention paid to Petito was what made people aware about the missing white girl syndrome. This has led to many conversations, and people now realize that it is always the pretty girl who gets all the attention.