Updated: September 15, 2019 10:34 PM
Thousands of people are likely to see the ‘Invisible No More’ billboard on the corner of Garfield Avenue and Superior Street in Duluth. Powerful as this platform is, it will never make up for the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women that it commemorates.
On Sunday afternoon, the Duluth community came together for a prayer vigil in honor of the new billboard and what it represents. As the first missing and murdered Indigenous women billboard in the state of Minnesota, it sheds light on an ongoing crisis surrounding the safety and well-being of Indigenous women.
“I stand here because I don’t want to see another parent or family make another poster of a missing loved one,” Carl Crawford, Duluth Human Rights Comission said.
At the vigil, there were many posters put together by individuals commemorating their loved ones. One individual was Lauren Matrious, who lost her daughter Pennie Robertson.
“She went missing out of Fond Du Lac and then seven days later we found her,” Matrious said.
Pennie left behind five children who came to the vigil with their grandmother to honor their mother. Their handprints could be seen on Pennie’s poster.
“It’s becoming an epidemic among the people not only here in Minnesota but all over the country so I believe that was her purpose—you know, our purpose, to honor her, to remember her, to bring this awareness,” Matrious said.
As some mothers remembered their daughters, other mothers used the memorial to educate their daughters.
“Growing up, I was taught 1 in 3 and I believe that statistic was spoken on today. I actually have 3 daughters so doing the work that I do, that’s why I do it and educating your children and letting them know that this is a very real issue is very important so that they can remain vigilant and they can remain aware and unfortunately, its something we have to do so that growing up as young Indigenous women, they know how to keep themselves safe,” Taysha Martineau said.
Fathers too, made a point of supporting the cause.
“It is so important that we as men talk to our young boys and other men about sexual violence and about violence. The conversation starts with us,” Crawford said. “There’s been many times as an ex athlete in the locker room or on a bus ride where I heard things and didn’t have the courage to stand up and talk about how to stop violence, but we are the key because most of those crimes are perpetrated by men so if we talk to men and give young men and boys the tools to talk about violence, maybe we’ll have one less.”
Framed by a circle of people, the event opened with a prayer and a sage cleansing which progressed to music and marching. The beat of the drums and the beauty of the singers were highlights of the event, causing even passerby’s to slow down and admire what was taking place.
“It was the drummers. Yeah, the drummers and the prayer and all the people coming together,”activist D’Andre Robinson said.
As a collective, activists, members of the community, Mayor Emily Larson and more walked to the Duluth Folk School where speeches were made and future plans were announced.
Recently, a bill called H.F. 70 that will create a task force dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women was passed. The city of Duluth hopes that this will help combat the epidemic.
“There’s no throw away people. Everyone that’s missing, that’s lost is a mother, is a daughter, is a friend for someone special and had a legacy,” Crawford said.
The event ended similarly to the way it started—with a collective respect for the missing and murdered Indigenous women it aimed to remember and uplift.
Updated: September 15, 2019 10:34 PM
Created: September 15, 2019 06:49 PM
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