USA Today: Native American girls fall through the cracks

American Indian and Native Alaskan girls are a small fraction of the population, but they are over-represented in the juvenile justice system, whether they are living on or off the reservation.

Native American girls have the highest rates of incarceration of any ethnic group. They are nearly five times more likely than white girls to be confined to a juvenile detention facility, according to the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

There are programs on tribal lands that work with Native girls who have been caught up in the system, using federal funds. But American Indian girls often find themselves without state or local social service programs tailored to their cultural backgrounds and experiences, which are distinct from other girls living in or on the edge of poverty.

“As Indian people, our greatest hope is our children. And our kids are really at risk,” said Carla Fredericks, director of the American Indian Law Clinic at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder. “The only way we can help these girls is if we do it cooperatively, with the states, federal government and within our own communities.”

A rare example of that kind of collaboration is the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center in Minneapolis. In Minnesota, American Indian girls have 18 times the incarceration rates of white girls. They are often disconnected from family who themselves may be battling addiction and mental health problems. Native girls who are extremely poor and lack stable housing often get involved with gangs and drug and sex trafficking, said Patina Park, the center’s executive director.

The center’s programming seeks to combat those trends using a combination of state, federal and private funds to create culturally specific programs, including case management, support groups, housing and mental health services for American Indian women and girls and their families. The center also has youth-specific programming for girls ages 11 to 21, many of whom have been sexually assaulted, involved in sex trafficking or are at high risk.

The idea is to keep girls in school, off drugs and alcohol and focused on a future with a career, rather than turning to crime to make ends meet. The program, which is run with the help of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, provides Native girls who’ve been cut off from their cultural heritage with a sense of community and purpose, Park said. Less than a quarter of American Indians live on tribal lands.

Since 1977, the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society on the Rosebud Reservation has been working with American Indian women and girls to address issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. Many Native juvenile girls are also victims of sexual abuse and family violence. But there are no such programs at the state and local level. Targeted programming coupled with more federal and state funding could make a huge difference in other cities and states with significant American Indian populations, Park said. “You could really change the disparity within the Native community fairly quickly and dramatically.”

Read the full article in USA Today.

Natalie A. Collier speaking

Blurred Focus: The State of Black Women in the Rural South

Natalie A. Collier, Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Social & Economic Justice

Presentation Description: In a world that has its spotlight—for better and worse—shone brightly on boys and young men of color, their mothers, sisters and others who love them are often quietly working, overshadowed. Dreams for boys and girls of color are already typically far too small. For many southern, rural black women while coping with the trauma of poverty, its spheres and effects that have become second nature, they must also deal with their own issues and displaced dreams for not only their sons but their daughters and selves. The focus and conversation on uplift and reconnection to personal and community power cannot be either/or; it must be both/and. Continuing along this path of either/or, we systemically and grievously rob women of color of opportunities to exercise their right to dream for themselves and their children.

Unequal Lives: The State of Black Women and Families in the Rural South

In the rural South, more than 1 in 4 children and nearly as many women live in poverty. When race and ethnicity are taken into consideration, the poverty rate is more than double for African-Americans and Latinos compared to their white counterparts.

For women and children living in the rural South, poverty is the result of unequal social, political and economic conditions— failing school systems, high levels of unemployment, poor public infrastructure and housing, and the lack of access to quality healthcare—that have persisted over many decades.

This report, Unequal Lives: The State of Black Women and Families in the Rural South, by the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative, aims to shed light on the most significant and persistent barriers to success, opportunity, and economic security for lower-income women and families in the rural South. It also provides an in-depth analysis of the economic security, health, and overall wellbeing of women living in nine counties across the rural South in the states of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.

President Obama speaking

Obama Speech Focuses on Plight of US Black Women

“U.S. President Barack Obama said African-American women continue to face long odds to succeed more than five decades after the height of the civil rights movement.

Speaking Saturday at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner in Washington, Obama praised the role black women played in the campaign for civil rights, from strategizing boycotts to organizing marches, even though they were not in leadership positions.

But he said that while black women and girls in the United States have made progress in terms of education and economics, they are still more likely to be mired in poverty due to working in low-wage jobs, and are incarcerated at twice the rate as white women.”

Obama’s call to lift up black women gets applause, but some want specific plan

“President Obama’s passionate testimony to the contributions of black women to “every great movement in American history” during a speech Saturday night was applauded by African-American feminists, who were equally glad to hear him acknowledge that black females face unique economic and social challenges.

In his speech at the Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner, Obama described the “real and persistent challenges” faced by black women and girls, including lower incomes, higher rates of serious illness and more exposure to violence. But he offered no specific effort to address those challenges, as he did a year-and-ahalf ago when he launched My Brother’s Keeper for at-risk boys and men of color.”