In a significant step toward addressing the distressing issue of missing Black women, Minnesota has taken a groundbreaking initiative by establishing the nation’s first-ever Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls.
The state’s decision to confront this profoundly troubling trend comes as a response to the countless untold and unsolved stories that have plagued the community for far too long.
State officials established a task force in 2021 under the direction of Lakisha Lee, whose sister Brittany Clardy vanished and died 10 years prior.
Clardy, only 18 at the time, had gone missing, and authorities found her lifeless body in the trunk of her car.
Lee recalled the anguish her family experienced and the frustration with law enforcement’s initial response.
“We knew something was wrong right away,” she said in an interview with NPR.
“But after they asked us her age and demographics, they assumed she had simply run away with her boyfriend. We knew our sister better than anyone. We were the experts on our own family.”
Motivated by the desire to ensure that other cases of missing Black women do not suffer the same fate as Clardy’s, Lee and her task force embarked on a journey that culminated in the creation of this pioneering office.
Supported by Democratic state Rep. Ruth Richardson and a team of dedicated volunteers, the task force presented a report in 2022 that shed light on the alarming reality Black women face in Minnesota.
Despite constituting only seven percent of the state’s population, Black women accounted for 40% of its domestic violence victims.
The task force’s findings reverberated beyond Minnesota’s borders, inspiring neighboring states such as Illinois and Wisconsin to adopt similar initiatives.
However, Minnesota has taken the lead by establishing the first Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls in the entire country. To tackle this pressing issue head-on, the Minnesota Legislature has committed a substantial budget of nearly $2.5 million over the next two years.
A significant portion of these funds, approximately $300,000 annually, will be dedicated to community-based organization grants. Furthermore, the state allocated $948,000 to establish and operate the Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls, ensuring its effectiveness and reach. An additional $50,000 annually will assist with public awareness campaigns to educate the public about the office and its mission.
Lee fervently hopes that these collective efforts will bring about lasting change.
“We can work towards a community intervention model that truly serves all families for generations, making the office unnecessary in the long run,” she said. “Together, we can put an end to this epidemic.”