Rich Talk: Sandra Bland Looked Like Me

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A city in Texas agreed to change “University Drive,” a road leading to Bland’s alma mater, to “Sandra Bland Parkway” in October. However, there’s a petition going around that wants the city council to reverse it. Over 1,200 people have signed the petition, which sincerely confuses me. This change symbolizes immortalization for Sandra Bland but ironically, division is amongst college students on campus and elsewhere. Some believe the name change will bring negativity to the university. Subsequently, I’ve decided to share this piece because it helped me to get into the doors of Atlanta Blackstar and I think some of us have forgotten what the real problem is: Black, African-American people are being killed, tortured and neglected within police custody. If we’ve been tweeting and encouraging others to #SayHerName, why is it now a “negative connotation” when her name is being said?


When it comes to Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman who died in police custody after being arrested during a traffic stop in the Texas neighborhood of Waller County on July 10, many questions are still left unanswered. In these times of “thorough” investigation, unfortunately cold hard facts aren’t available to the public. However, the people closest to Bland—family, friends and sorority sisters—wholeheartedly believe Ms. Bland would not commit suicide. According to the Chicago Tribune, Bland, a Naperville, Illinois-native returned to Texas to start her “dream job” at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, on Wednesday, July 15.

According to Heavy.com, there is unreleased surveillance video from Bland’s Texas jail cell, which would be the only plausible source of evidence to either quench the nationwide uproar or convict a jailer of murder. Bland’s friends were going to pay her five-thousand dollar bail on Monday morning (July 13), two days until her new job was to begin. She would have started in student outreach, had she lived. Based on one of the videos published on her personal Facebook page, Bland seemed to be one who spoke out against racism, police brutality and injustice, in thoughtful, thought-provoking and careful wording.

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“It’s time, ya’ll. It’s time. This thing that I’m holding in my hand. This telephone, this camera—it is quite powerful. Social media is powerful. We can do something with this. If we want a change, we can really, truly make it happen. You know, we sit out here and talk about ‘Oh, we need the next so and so and this and that’. No, you don’t. No, you don’t. Start in your own home. Start with you,” Bland challenged her social network in a thirty-second video on her Facebook.

The 28-year-old was described as “strong” “outspoken” and as someone who “took life head on”.

One would think that if you’re on your way to a successful future, the thoughts of suicide would be far from your mind. Unless harassment, racism or torture played a part in that short jail, it’s hard to fathom. However, adding mental illness to the pot, being inserted into an unfamiliar, life-threatening situation or if the dream job she came to Texas for was taken from her because she was in jail, are all possibilities to consider.

Upon hearing the unfortunate and tragic news for the first time, we thought she might have suffered from head drama, based on what she expressed in an uncredited video of her arrest.

You must know, according to Heavy.com, Sheriff Glenn Smith, the arresting officer
was fired in the past over racism allegations.

Many news sites have published a video from Bland’s Facebook page, in which she talks openly about post-traumatic stress disorder. Last week, before seeing this video, I called a therapist to schedule my first psychiatric appointment. I am not suicidal. However, I deal with great loads of stress, success and tragedy within my surroundings. Everyone should talk to someone about their issues, especially if they are a professional. Mental health is wealth.

If this case is ruled something other than a suicide and there is foul play, are we safe? Are any of us safe? Based on what has been reported, Sandra Bland wasn’t a thug. Sandra Bland wasn’t lazy, laid-back or jobless. Sandra Bland wasn’t without a college degree. In verity, Sandra Bland was stopped on a Texas street after failing to signal a lane change, arrested after allegedly kicking an officer and charged with “assault of a public servant”. Soon after, she was taken to jail. Now, she’s dead and her dreams were cut short. Sandra Bland was a hardworking, committed woman of colour, striving with plans to contribute to a better future for others.

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Since her death, one of the arresting police officers were placed on desk duty for “violating his department’s procedures”, according to a video report on USA Today. This unfortunate event also triggered a hashtag trend (#IfIDieInPoliceCustody) on social media, which has been tweeted over 27,000 times and counting.

This morning at 10AM, a prayer walk is to be held at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, Illinois, where her family and she once worshipped.


This version of the article was submitted to my Editor on July 20, 2015.


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