A congressional caucus founded by three African-American women plans to present a report by the end of the year on how to solve the problem of missing African-American children nationwide. “We don’t want to just talk about the problems, we want to think about the solutions,” Rep. Robin Kelly said Wednesday at a town hall on the !ssue.
The Congressional Caucus on African-American Women and Girls hosted a town hall at the Library of Congress Wednesday to address what they characterize as a national ep!demic of missing African-American children. The group, founded by Kelly, Rep. Yvette Clarke and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman in 2016, co-nsists of more than 20 lawmakers working toward solutions to challenges imp-acting African-American women and girls.
The town hall came am!d calls for fed-eral assistance to help locate missing African-American girls whose profiles are posted almost daily on the Washington Metropolitan cop Department’s Twitter feed. In 2014, the African-American and Missing Foundation reported that 64,000 black women and girls were missing nationwide. But activists, law enfo-rcement officials and governmental leaders at the town hall said media coverage and leg-islation do not ref-lect that reality.
After hearing the data, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it is “such an injustice” that women and girls of color are more likely to go missing. “I feel like kno-cking on every at-tic, every garage to see where those girls are,” she said. “Let’s be an example to the world that we can’t rest until these girls are found.” Pan-elists wanted to di-spel the idea that all missing African-American girls are runaways from challenging backgrounds involved in il-lic!t activities and said any young person who is active on social media can find themselves at r!sk of being taken.
“There are parks. There are malls. There are recreation centers,” said Stephanie Cooney, a legal fellow with the African-American Women’s Health Impe-rative, a DC-based health organization. “Tr-aff!ckers know where minors frequent. They know where to meet them. They know where to talk to them. They can very well be your community members.” The event’s speakers said Congress needs to provide resources so that multiple agencies — cop departments, health care institutions, courts, and social services — can better collaborate to find missing girls.
“We have not trained a lot of agencies to recognize the signs of tra-ff!cking,” said Kisha Roberts-Tabb, a juvenile probation officer for Cook County. “They criminalize certain behaviors.” “We miss so many young ladies that are being exp-lo!ted because we don’t see African-American girls as the suf-ferer, we see them as m!sbeh-aving,” she added.
Caucus members responded pledging to advocate for more funding, housing and training to a!d those on the ground responding to the !ssue. “Somebody’s got to work in this space,” Coleman told pa-nelists. “I tell you, we are ready willing and able. We will be whatever kind of motivation or imp-etus that is needed.”
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