HARLEM, Manhattan (PIX11) — Activists from the five boroughs rallied in Harlem Thursday evening, imploring people to give up the location of missing Illinois woman, Shamari Brantley, who is just 22 and suffers from schizophrenia.
Iesha Sekou, director of the nonprofit Street Corner Resources, used a megaphone to motivate the crowd outside the New York State Office Building on 125th Street.
“A child is missing!” Sekou told the gathering. “Missing! And somebody knows where the child is.”
Brantley is the youngest of five children, and she disappeared from her home in Wheaton, Illinois, in mid-August.
Her mother, Artimece Cotton, said she last heard from Shamari on Aug. 31. Pennsylvania State Police reportedly told the mother they found Brantley walking on a highway and took her to a gas station weeks ago.
Phone records indicated Brantley made it to the Bronx in New York City by early September. Cotton said her daughter didn’t always take her necessary medication.
“She would take it one day and then forget to take it the next day,” the mother said. “We had an appointment for her to get the ‘injection’ and before that, she left.”
Cotton is referring to a monthly injection that some schizophrenia patients take to control their difficult symptoms, like hearing voices and paranoia.
Representatives from an organization called Save Our Streets joined the rally, along with friends of Chicago-based rapper, Bo Deal, who is Brantley’s cousin.
“I just wish we had this going on for a lot of our women of color,” Deal said, “who don’t get that kind of attention.”
The National Crime Information Center, which is part of the FBI, said more than 80,000 Black females, 20 and under, were reported missing in 2022. Most of them turned up, but by year’s end, NCIC said it was still actively investigating more than 14,000 missing cases involving Black women.
Dawn Rowe, founder of the National Task Force for Missing and Murdered Girls and Women of Color, said her group Girl Vow donated between $5,000 and $10,000 to Brantley’s family for travel expenses like gas, lodging and food.
Rowe said the Black and Missing Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., had also made a donation to the family.
Chanece Lewis, Brantley’s oldest sister, is grateful since the family is traveling between Wheaton, Illinois, and New York City every week.
“We have to drive about 14 hours to get here, each way, and then when we get here, still have to find housing, food and everything,” the sister said.
People at the rally passed around a beige, cloth bag to raise more money for the family.
One speaker noted the community has to take responsibility for finding Brantley.
“We got access the police don’t got!” one man said on the megaphone. “We know people the police don’t know.”
Rowe said Brantley’s family is expected at her annual candlelight vigil, to be held this year on Nov. 3 at City Hall Park downtown, which seeks attention for missing and murdered women of color.