On the night of May 27th, Charnice Milton, a twenty-seven-year-old journalist, was heading home from an assignment. She’d stopped to transfer buses in Anacostia, in Washington, D.C., after covering a neighborhood meeting for a Capitol Hill paper called the Hill Rag. According to police, Milton took a bullet aimed at another passerby, in a neighborhood that’s seen much of the twenty-per-cent increase in homicides in D.C. from this time last year. Her killing remains unsolved.
At Syracuse University, where Milton received a master’s degree in journalism in 2011, one professor remembered her unusual response to his question of where each student hoped to land in the next ten years. “Some said the New York Times, some said Esquire or Rolling Stone,” he told Syracuse.com. “Charnice said she wanted to be writing stories that mattered in the community where she grew up.” After graduating, she churned out copy as a stringer for the Hill Rag and its hyper-local sister paper, East of the River, covering her native southeast D.C., including Anacostia.
The most basic instinct of a local reporter is to take the importance of her neighbors as a given. In a community like Anacostia—where more than ninety per cent of residents are African-American, one in two kids lives below the poverty line, and incarceration and unemployment rates are among the nation’s highest—this is another way of saying that black lives matter. Sometimes, for Milton, that meant writing up community meetings, where neighbors protested shoddy development projects or called out the predations of banks. Other times, it meant documenting the impact of mass incarceration block by block. Milton covered the “Ban the Box” campaign to keep employers from freezing out applicants with criminal records, and the launch of a support group to help people leaving prison. She laid out local battles over funding for city fire and emergency medical services and plans to build the city’s first Wal-Mart, on the block where she was later shot.
Milton’s best work didn’t focus on the neighborhood's problems, at least not directly. It dipped, instead, into the lives of what her dad called “the geeks of Anacostia.” Milton wrote a profile of a high-school student named Jabari Jefferson, who won a scholarship to study in Beijing. He’d previously been harassed by police, and was mistaken on one occasion for a person suspected of breaking someone’s window. Now, Milton wrote, he’d made a name for himself as someone who could “continue changing others’ perceptions of African-American men in Ward 8.” She covered the ninetieth birthday of Erman Clay, a Second World War veteran who ranked among the first African-American Command Sergeant Majors in the National Guard. And she gave page space to Auntie Oye, a Liberian immigrant who taught Anacostia school-kids to cook healthier meals, dressing them up in little white chef’s coats and employing her best storytelling tricks. Twice in recent years, Milton interviewed the late Marion Barry; his wife told the crowd at Milton’s funeral that her husband had said of Charnice, “This young lady, she’s so different, she’s so thorough.”
Community papers can do this stuff: they can grill or gild local power, make space for voices outside it, and tell you where to find the chili-pepper festival or the soup kitchen or the voting booth. Milton didn’t romanticize the genre, but she believed in its value and worried about the economic forces stripping it down. On Pinterest, Milton asked her followers, “Traditional Journalism: Is it Old News?,” sharing an infographic full of grim statistics: “Between 2006 and 2011, daily newspaper staffs shrank 25%,” “Between 2005 and 2009, newspaper ad revenue dropped 47 percent.” But from the moment she graduated, she found a way to enlist in what she saw as a cultural movement to keep up grassroots news. She was young enough to speak social media as a second language—she posted her stories on LinkedIn and photos on Facebook. But her mother told me that the work in which she put her faith was shoe-leather, in-the-flesh reporting, bound for print.
Not long after Milton’s death, I drove to the Living Word Church, in southwest D.C., to talk with her mother, Francine Milton, a schoolteacher, and her stepfather, Ken McClenton, a local radio personality who hosts “The Exceptional Conservative Show.” Charnice lived at home with the couple. (Milton’s father, Charles Gross, died several years ago.) We met in the nave of the church; Ken flicked on the lights to reveal a sea of black chairs, with one near the front draped in a pale sheet to mark the absence of Charnice.
The couple spoke about their daughter’s unlikely path to journalism. As a child, she was unable to speak. Later, she had a severe stutter and symptoms akin to those of Asperger’s. “Growing up, she was teased a lot, because she was chubby and she didn’t speak like anyone else,” Ken told me. “She’d come home crying, and she’d just go into her little shell.” To learn basic social skills, she relied on Disney movies. “She watched and studied ‘Alice in Wonderland’ over and over and over, to learn how to speak—kind of like the way an alien would study TV to find out what to do,” he said.
“If you want to know how her voice sounded, it sounded like Alice,” Francine said.
All these pieces of her childhood never really went away—the acute shyness, the severe speech troubles, the desire to hole up in her room and burrow into some bookish Wonderland. But Milton honed her craft as an inoculation. Early each morning, she woke to an alarm playing gospel music, made a cup of chai tea, and began cold calls for her latest article: “I’m doing a story. I need to talk to you. When can we meet?”
Often, she’d go out reporting during the day, then type up her notes until three or four in the morning, sending off copy to her editor at the Hill Rag and East of the River, Andrew Lightman. When I spoke to him, Lightman recalled the day that Milton showed up at his office and asked for a job. “I remember thinking, Why on earth does this woman want to be a reporter?” Lightman told me. “Here’s this woman who’s very, very painfully shy, with a pronounced speech impediment.… But I just had a feeling about her.” (Lightman wrote a memorial for the Hill Rag, calling Milton a reporter of rare “tenacity, work ethic, and grit.”) She soon became one of Lightman’s most reliable stringers, showing up to local meetings that others might consider too dull or too small.
On May 27th, Milton was covering a community meeting near Eastern Market. “I’m on my way,” she’d texted her mom as she headed home. Francine thought she’d likely have to pick her daughter up from the bus stop. At 11:15 P.M., there was a banging on Francine and Ken’s front door. It was a D.C. cop asking, “Do you have a daughter named Charnice Milton?”
Francine said that she did.
The next day, D.C.’s chief of police, Cathy Lanier, publicly lamented Milton’s murder as a case of “wrong place, wrong time.” Ken McClenton still chafes at the phrase. On Father’s Day, he nailed forty-four white crosses into the grass of a local park, each representing an unsolved homicide in D.C. The parents of other murder victims joined him. “It’s unfathomable that a city of this size won’t count these lives as important, as all the other lives in the city,” Ken told a local news crew. By the time Ken, Francine, and others finished with their hammers, word arrived that another homicide had occurred. Tonight, Milton's family is organizing an event, beside where she was shot, to call for reducing the number of unresolved homicides in Washington, D.C.
In his new book, “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates observes that “in America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.” It’s traditional, too, for community journalists to cover the contours of that violent project—think of Ida B. Wells and her dispatches on the barbarities of the Jim Crow age—as well as to save ink for the parts of people’s lives that exist outside and beyond it. Milton found her place in that latter tradition. “She took on topics that other people didn’t think were important,” Francine told me. “And they just became important, because she wrote about them.” She might have covered a vigil like her parents’. Or she might have been busy with public hearings, and with local geeks and students and growers of things.
Right now there are 20 people missing from the District alone.
Including Relisha Rudd. She was only 8 when she went missing on March 1, 2014.
Saturday, October 9, 2010 The Metropolitan Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in locating a missing person identified as 24-year-old Unique Harris who was last seen on Saturday, October 9, 2010 in the 2400 block of Hartford Street, SE. Ms. Harris is described as a black female, 5’7” tall, weighing approximately 123–130 pounds, with brown eyes, short brown hair, and light complexion. She has tattoos on her lower back and left arm. She was last seen wearing a white shirt and gray pants. Ms. Harris was also wearing a silver chain, approximately 16-20 inches in length. The chain had a broken clasp and was secured with a safety pin.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO CHLOIE LEVERETTE AND CHRISTOPHER DANIEL FROM MIDDLE TENN.? MISSING SINCE 9/22/12
FOR THE FULL STORY FROM https://fox2now.com/2017/04/27/one-small-st-louis-county-town-is-missing-dozens-of-teens/
Last seen alive: December 22, 1990
Circumstances: Richard was last seen on 12/22/90 leaving the Riverfront Lounge in Allegan City. His vehicle was impounded a few days later from a nearby parking lot. He was reported missing on 12/28/90. To date Richard has not been located. He was 21 years old at the time of her disappearance and would be 40 years old today.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Allegan County Cold Case member, Det. Pat Oreilly at 269-673-0500 ext. 4263 or D/Tpr. Scott Ernstes at 269-792-2213 ext. 346 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Original Agency: Allegan City Police Department
Original Agency Number: 4336-90
Assisting Agency: Allegan County SheriffÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Department
Assisting Agency Number: 240-00
NIC # M534712649
First Name: Richard Eugene Dale
Middle Name: Eugene Dale
Last Name: Hitchcock
Age When Last Known Alive: 21
Head Hair: Bushy read hair.
Scars And Marks: Possible scars on one of his hands-fingertips from being cut. Possible scar on nose from sinus surgery. Possible scar on one of legs (shin area) from injury as child.
Scar on right hip from a skin graft (hip skin to hand).
Clothing: Last seen wearing: Union Bay white jeans, black t-shirt (Dangerous Toys on it) and a brown leather bomber jacket. Or possibly a blue-striped shirt with white t-shirt underneath.
Footwear: Last seen wearing: white Nike shoes with purple swoosh on them.
Accessories: Keys never found. Key chain was clear epoxy with a scorpion molded within.
His vehicle was recovered from a nearby parking lot a few days after he went missing.