Answering the Call to Protect Black Women and Girls in America
October 11, 2023
On September 20, 2023, a group of civil rights leaders, social justice advocates, and academics came together in Washington, D.C. to discuss the epidemic of missing and murdered Black women and girls in America. The event was convened by Tiara Willie, Bloomberg Assistant Professor of American Health in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Kamila Alexander, associate director of PhD and postdoctoral programs at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
The event began with a presentation from Research in Action, an organization led by Brittany Lewis, PhD, that focuses on driving solutions to address racial justice. The research team, composed of Professors Willie and Alexander, the Missing and Murdered African American Women’s Taskforce and Council, and The Brittany Clardy Foundation, shared the results of their collaborative research efforts to promote justice and social equity for Black women and girls experiencing structural and interpersonal violence. The work by Lewis, Catherine Squires, Ariana Koycinski, and Ayize James from Research in Action encompassed an extensive investigation into the complexity of this issue. Among the findings, the team found that while Black women make up only seven percent of the Minnesota population, they account for 40 percent of domestic violence victims in the state. A detailed list of other findings can be found here.
Lakeisha Lee, co-founder of the Brittany Clardy Foundation, presented on the importance of the development of the task force for missing and murdered African American women. The foundation is named after Lee's sister, who tragically died in 2013.
"Had something like the task force existed, Brittany's story could have ended differently," says Lee.
The event concluded with a panel discussion featuring Lee, Tiffany Roberson, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rep. Bonnie Watson Colman (D-NJ) where they announced the introduction of the Brittany Clardy Act. The proposed legislation would establish an Office for Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls within the U.S. Department of Justice. This office will spearhead efforts to counter disparities in violence conducting research and collect data related to missing and murdered black women and girls, develop policy and best practices recommendations, and create a centralized repository for tracking of relevant cases. The office will also provide grants to local organizations providing culturally-appropriate services to victims and impacted families.
“We realize that this is just the beginning,” said Alexander. “Today, we are planting the seeds, and hopefully we all can go out to our respective spaces across the nation and really talk about [the change we need to see].”
A full recording of this event is available here.
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