Families of missing and murdered Black women plead for action

erika brown_mmaaw task force
Posted at 11:37 AM, May 17, 2024

MADISON — Family members of missing and murdered African American women pleaded Thursday for action from state lawmakers.

Their message comes after a bill to create a task force to combat endemic violence against Black women died in the state Legislature. The bill received bipartisan support in the Assembly, but Republicans who control the Senate didn’t schedule it for a vote.

Democratic Rep. Shelia Stubbs, who authored the bill, is calling for the Senate to come back into session to vote on the plan or for the state Department of Justice to create a task force without input from the Legislature.

“This isn’t a black, white, brown, male or female issue. It is a public safety issue,” said Dr. Erika Brown, who was at the Capitol on behalf on the family of Sade Robinson, a Milwaukee student who was murdered and dismembered last month. “And I know that we are talking politics, but there is nothing politically correct about any of these situations, especially considering my friend still does not have her daughter’s face.”

After advocates spoke at the Capitol, news broke Thursday afternoon that law enforcement officials were working to identify an arm discovered in Illinois. The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that they had contacted Robinson’s family about the discovery.

Wisconsin is one of the worst states in the nation for violence against Black women. In 2020, the state had the highest homicide rates in the nation for Black women, according to CDC data. In fact, Black women in Wisconsin were 20 times more likely than white women to be murdered.

Republican Sen. Duey Stroebel held up the task force bill in committee earlier this year, saying he didn’t support legislation that prioritized one racial group over others. He changed tack Thursday, sending a letter encouraging Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul to create the task force. That would require the DOJ to foot the bill for the initiative. The department previously created a task force dedicated to missing and murdered indigenous women.

DOJ spokesperson Gillian Drummond said the agency hopes the Legislature will create the task force but said in a statement that the DOJ is continuing to have conversations about how it can obtain the resources it needs to establish the task force on its own.