Responding to the ongoing rise of violence against Black women and girls, Minnesota took a step forward in protecting this vulnerable group. Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill Monday launching the Missing and Murdered African American Women Task Force.
Established as a part of the 2021 Public Safety and Judiciary Omnibus Bill, the task force aims to address the root causes of violence against Black women and girls and address systemic failures that leave so many cases unresolved.
At a press conference Monday, state Rep. Ruth Richardson spoke of the possibility in the current moment. She thanked the family members who never gave up and continued to push for action.
“I would like to tell people that this is long overdue in many ways, but I’m really excited for the possibility for what is before us,” Richardson said. “We are the first state in the nation to create a task force to look specifically at missing and murdered Black women and girls. “
Richardson said Minnesota reached this point because of the stories of people like Brittany Clardy and her sister Lakeisha Lee. Clardy was brutally murdered almost 10 years ago.
The lawmaker also took aim at the media, noting that Black children make up 30% of all missing kids but receive less than 13% of the media attention. She said that classifying Black children as runaways leads to fewer resources utilized in finding them. Amber alerts are underutilized for missing Black children.
“What we know right now is we don’t know enough about missing black women and girls and also women who have been murdered,” Richardson explained. “We do know that in the United states right now the estimates are that there are somewhere between 64,000 and 75,000 Black women and girls who are currently missing…we have a lot of work to do to understand what we’re actually facing.”
The task force marks the first effort adopted at the state level to address the plight of Black women and girls. Renewed attention on missing and murdered Black women and girls with a new series.
An HBO original series “Black and Missing” aired recently and highlighted the work of the Black and Missing Foundation. The four-part docuseries is award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien’s latest foray into documentaries. She partnered with Geeta Gandbhir to bring the work of the Black and Missing Foundation to life.
Founded in 2008, the Black and Missing Foundation was started by Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson to help families navigate the police and media. Reading accounts of missing Black people from the Black and Missing Foundation’s Twitter account shows the depth of the crisis for Black people generally.
Richardson called the task force a potential blueprint for change.
“A blueprint to solve clear crimes and to be able to ensure that everyone gets equal access to the services that they need when they need them,” Richardson said. “We are not going to leave anyone behind in this process.”