The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls (CCBWG) will convene a Capitol Hill forum on Wednesday aimed at tackling the issue of missing Black women and children across America.

The event is expected to draw lawmakers, advocates, members of law enforcement, local government officials, academics and other experts to address the kidnapped and missing — often women and children of color whose stories go underreported.

Co-chairs of the caucus are Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02).

“I’m glad to bring this important conversation to Capitol Hill following a similar one that I hosted in Chicago examining this crisis and its risk factors,” said Rep. Kelly. “This problem is not just affecting Chicago and DC, but it’s affecting small and large communities across the country. It’s clear that we need a nationwide solution to address this nationwide problem.”

The convening will consist of two panels focused on fact-finding and best practices.

In the nation’s capital, there has been a recent outcry after media reports and chatter in the blogosphere suggested an alarming number of reports of missing persons, many of them Black and Latino women and girls. Police and officials clarified that cases hadn’t increased, but the department had amped up its social media efforts to solicit public assistance.

According to FBI data from February 2017, there were a total of 13,591 active missing person records for African American women stored in its National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Of that total, 8,042 were of the ages of 18 and under; 1,419 were between the ages of 19 to 21.

Topics on the agenda will include various structural and institutional factors that may contribute to missing cases, including economic disadvantages and/or poverty in certain communities of color; disparate treatment of missing Black women and girls by police; and lack of public awareness or response.

Organizers have invited a cross section of panelists. They include Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, Howard University School of Social Work; Stephanie Cooney, Black Women’s Health Imperative; Dr. Martinique Free, American University; Derrica Wilson, Black and Missing Foundation; and D. Michael Lyles, National Bar Association.

The experts will help inform and advise members of Congress and participants on the intricacies of this issue, with a goal of forwarding solution-oriented proposals.

“Too often, the stories of missing Black women and girls are lost or ignored. We want to make sure that every voice is heard and every story is told,” said Rep. Clarke

“There are many reasons why girls go missing. It’s my hope that we shine a spotlight on the many components that contribute to the issue of missing Black women and girls and begin to come up with informed solutions to help reconcile the issue on both the local and federal level.”

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