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Minnesota becomes first state to establish a missing and murdered African American task force

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 7:02 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Minnesota has become the first state to establish a task force centered around missing and murdered African American women. While the bill was signed into law in July, this week task force members gathered to celebrate what some called a bittersweet accomplishment.

“To be the first is great,” Mendota Heights (DFL) Rep. Ruth Richardson said. “But, we hope that we are not the long.”

Richardson says the task force was a long time coming. Rochester NAACP chapter officer Barbara Jordan, agrees.

“It’s about time,” she said. “...Whether it was a task force, or legislation, or a spotlight on this important area, whatever it is. If we could be that beacon for the rest of the country, I think the impact could be significant.”

The diverse task force includes 12 different individuals, some who have lost family members themselves.

“It’s going to be an emotional journey,” Richardson said. “Really having some difficult conversations. Some painful conversations. What we are asking people to do, its not easy. It’s a traumatic process. Our hope and goal is together... begin a pathway of healing for some of these families.”

Right now, between 64,000 and 75,000 Black girls and women are missing in the United States, according to the CDC. In Minnesota, Black women are 2.7 times more likely to be murdered than other women in the state; a statistic that rises the national average at 2.2.

“There should not be a difference,” Jordan said. “Whether its five times as many, or 1.5 times as may. There shouldn’t be a difference for my daughter, my granddaughter growing up in this country.”

In August this year, the Gabby Petito case shed a light on other missing girls -- and the lack of media attention they receive; many of them women of color.

“I think when we saw the disparity in media focus, because there was so much on that case,” Jordan said. “For us in the community of color, we could not help but compare and contrast that to what happens to Sandra Bland. I’m not even going to call out the names because that is part of the problem. It’s that systemic issue.”

The task force is a one year term. Around this time next year, the team will have a report.

“We will be leaving the task force with a report that will act as a blue print, talking about the root cause, the data and the known issues and disparities facing Black women and girls,” Richardson said.

The hope is that blueprint, will serve as a map -- and something Jordan is ready to follow.

“From the Rochester branch and the NAACP stand point, we stand at the ready. Once the task force does its work, we are ready to take action steps and close the gaps,” she said.

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