By Guest Contributor Stacia L. Brown, cross-posted from PostBourgie
I was home for the holidays when Phylicia Barnes went missing. My immediate family—all women, now four generations deep, with the birth of my daughter— huddled around the small kitchen TV, listening to local news anchors explain the facts surrounding Barnes’ disappearance: black high school honors student from Monroe, NC comes to Baltimore, filled with excitement at the prospect of strengthening her relationship with a half-sister she barely knew and was likely eager to impress. During her visit, the sister, Deena, age 27, allows Barnes to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana—practices her mother expressly forbade at home. Barnes was last seen alive at her half-sister’s apartment; the only other person in the home at the time was the sister’s ex-boyfriend.
Perhaps the most chilling thing about this incident is how relatable the circumstances are. Family comes up from down south all the time, hoping for a bright lights-big city experience before heading back to the slow-ambling comforts of home. One half-sibling wanting to establish a bond with another, after only just discovering she had half-siblings in the first place? Also pretty common. An older sister who barely knows her younger one not being as protective as she should? That’s a familiar scene. A mother tentatively encouraging her daughter to connect with her estranged father’s side of the family, in an attempt to be a supportive, inclusive parent? Not uncommon.
For it all to end in a disappearance and, as of April 21, the discovery of Barnes’ body floating in the Susquehanna River, is all the more devastating, because we can easily put ourselves in the positions of at least one party involved in this tragedy.