A few months ago I learned about an American girl who has been forced to live in Ghana with her father’s relatives, against the wishes of her mother who has sole legal custody. If you are a regular reader of The Chicago Ambassador you probably read it. If not, you definitely did not see it because the media in Chicago have no interest in the story. (For the original story, click here).
In a nutshell, the girl’s mother — Ivy Davis, met her future husband and daughter’s father Raymond C. Gunn, after running away from a group home in North Carolina when she was 15 and he was 21. Soon after, Davis became pregnant with Gunn and he convinced her to move to Olympia Fields, where he resided with his family. They were married in 2003, by his father Raymond F. Gunn, who also was a lawyer in Illinois.
Over the next 8 years, the marriage had its ups and downs, with Davis ultimately moving to Georgia with her young daughter Christina to be close to her mother, two years after being married. In 2009, Raymond filed for divorce and was awarded custody of their daughter. Davis, who did not have the resources to hire an attorney, represented herself and claims that she was bullied by the court system and her husband’s attorneys. According to the original divorce decree, the child’s father was to have sole custody, with Davis getting supervised visitation for the first 18 months, provided she post $5,000 bond. During the divorce proceedings, which lasted from 2009 until 2011, there were no allegations made against Davis’ character or other factors that usually would cause a mother not to be given at least joint custody of her child.
Christina was first brought to Ghana in January 2009, Davis said she was led to believe that her daughter was going to visit her ex-husband’s father and his wife Ayesha Hakeem for three weeks. Since then, Davis has only seen her daughter on a couple occasions, the last being in 2013, when Raymond F. Gunn and Hakeem brought her back for a two-day visit, according to Davis.
I wrote the story, and also did a follow up interview with the girl’s father Raymond C. Gunn, who was sent to Cook County Jail in June for civil contempt until his daughter is returned. (He currently remains in jail). And 12-year old Christina, she’s still in Ghana with her father’s father and his wife. Her mother, Ivy Davis, remains in the U.S. and still has “legal” custody, although those are just words. While the U.S. State Department has opened an investigation, the FBI claims it is powerless because the U.S. and Ghana have no extradition treaty. So, the case is basically in limbo.
How long the girl’s father, Raymond C. Gunn, can remain in jail remains an open question. In June, when he was locked up, attorneys for Ivy Davis told me that someone is usually jailed on civil contempt charges in order to compel them to do something. In this case, Raymond C. Gunn was ordered to jail until he was able to produce his daughter at court in Cook County. Yet, more than six months later the daughter remains in Ghana. On Monday, a motion to set him free was denied in Cook County Circuit Court, although I’m told once a judge deems the incarceration as punitive rather than to compel someone to do something they usually release the person. Also on Monday, the Illinois Appellate Court (First District) upheld the Circuit Court’s previous decisions in the case that Gunn’s legal team was trying to have overturned. (Click here to read the decision). So, unfortunately if you’re wondering how many more birthdays Christina will be kept from her mother; that remains a question without an answer.
If I were to look at this story from a news editor or public relations angle, it has many possibilities. There’s the popular angle of a young, poor mother being bullied by the courts during her divorce. There’s the local angle, since the court battle took place in the Cook County Courts. There’s also an interesting angle of class wars amongst African Americans at play here. In addition, there’s the straight-forward hard news angle of a kidnapping of an American child and the State Department investigation as well. Any of those could and should be covered, but have not been for some reason.
I should point out that I was interviewed by Rivet Radio along with Katherine Haskins Becker, attorney for Ivy Davis. But besides Rivet, no other outlet has picked up the story. I should also note that I was on WGN Radio to talk about a story I did on homeless artist Stephen Martin and did mention the story to the host while on the air. My hope in doing so was that more fellow media members would learn about it from the radio broadcast than from the original publication of the story. Unfortunately, if any heard it they didn’t follow up.
I’m not going to name names or publications, but I will tell you that many of our city’s leading reporters and publications, those who claim to be and are looked at as a voice for the powerless, are aware of this story and have done nothing. I’m not an advocate for Ivy Davis. However, I have vetted her story and she checks out. She isn’t a money-grubber, or crackpot, or had any drug or mental history that would cause hesitation to cover the story.
So, just why the story hasn’t interested the bigger media outlets, I can’t answer. Perhaps it’s because it’s about an African American girl. You cannot tell me that if Christina was a white girl from Wilmette, CNN wouldn’t be all over this, along with the big papers here in Chicago. Perhaps it’s because it’s seen as a “domestic” issue, although if one looks into the case for more than five minutes they will discover it’s much more than that. I suppose they have sexier stories to work on, like the latest activity of Chief Keef or the latest comments from Donald Trump.
Regular readers and viewers of the Chicago papers and news stations shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the Laquan McDonald story was originally reported as a routine police shooting, if there is such a thing, and it wasn’t really questioned. Only after Jamie Kalven, (who is not a part of the press corps covering crime here) brought the video to light which led to a murder charge against police officer Jason Van Dyke, did the press start following up. Also, although there may be questions about the Homan Square stories, it was The Guardian, an English paper, that broke that story.
I don’t know what’s wrong with the press here. Perhaps there aren’t enough reporters, not enough editorial space in the papers or one of the many other reasons that impacts what makes the news. That debate will continue. One thing I’m sure of is that I can’t explain the reasoning of my media colleagues, which goes back to why I started The Chicago Ambassador in the first place.