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  May 25, 2015

Advocates Say Black Women Left Out of Freddie Gray Conversation

More attention needed to black women in policing debate
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TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the scene where Baltimore's penchant for violence against women and the reality of the little attention it receives can be told in the starkest terms. On this deserted patch of road near Baltimore's Leakin Park, two women were brutally assaulted on the exact same spot nearly five years apart. One woman raped and disfigured in 2003 survived. The other, Yolanda Brown, died in 2008 shortly after she too was raped and discarded on the side of this road.

But in between the two cases of extreme violence, something occurred that speaks to the special plight of women in Baltimore, caught between an onslaught of crime and a seemingly indifferent police department. DNA from the same man was found on the victim of 2003 and two other women killed that same year. It was evidence that sat untouched until Yolanda Brown and four other women were strangled in 2008. Then the police decided to test and found this man, William Brown.

Brown plead guilty to two murders and one rape in 2003. But of the five women who died in 2008, four of their cases remain unsolved.

HANI BELLOW, ORGANIZER, BALTIMORE BLOC: All the names, all the lost souls, we want to give them light. We want them to have a voice today.

GRAHAM: Which is just one of the reasons advocates gathered beneath the Billie Holiday statue on Pennsylvania Avenue, to call attention to a topic that has been overlooked in the continued debate over violence and policing in Baltimore.

COREY JOHNSON, ORGANIZER, BALTIMORE BLOC: And the more that we allow for this national narrative to structure how our community is run, the more that we're able to gloss over the violence that happens to black women. It's sad. I literally want to cry.

GRAHAM: Here they held a discussion about how the daily onslaught of violence and proactive policing affects women in unique and often untold ways.

CARMEN SHORTER, WOMEN'S HEALTH ADVOCATE, POWERINSIDE: And watching our city explode, and watching black women spill out into the streets and be traumatized by that just as much as men were, but being ignored in the public dialog--having worked with women as long as I have, I knew we needed to be here to speak for the women who couldn't be here tonight.

GRAHAM: They say too often the concerns of women are left out of the discussion, or ignored altogether.

MYLA GORHAM, CONCERNED COMMUNITY MEMBER: I think it is a reflection of how black women are treated. I think different injustices that happen against black women, they're not paid as much attention to. They're not given the same amount of press as black men.

GRAHAM: The events of the last month since the death of Freddie Gray in police custody show the real outcomes of our policing. But women are also victims of a neglectful, even aggressive, criminal justice system.

Case in point was a Baltimore Sun investigation that found the Baltimore City Police Department dismissed rape reports at one of the highest rates in the country. Four in ten phone calls to 911 about rape resulted in no report at all. In fact, Baltimore City classified the reports of almost 40 percent of women who said they were raped as unfounded, a baseless accusation without facts.

It's an issue advocates say still exists today, and it is one of many reasons that women's voices need to be heard in the discussion about violence, policing, and making Baltimore a safer and healthier place for women to live.

SHORTER: We only have a certain role for black women. As a nurturer or as a lover, but not as a colleague, not as someone that we care about and love unless they are personally known to us. Until we start taking care of women in our conversations, we're going to lose this struggle.

GRAHAM: Taya Graham reporting with Megan Sherman in Baltimore, for The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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