To the excitement of many socially conscious readers, HBO has aired a long-awaited documentary: Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland.
Sandra Bland, a Chicago native, was each and every one of us. She was a 28-year-old daughter and sister, who graduated from a Texas HBCU, Prairie View A&M;, on a band scholarship where she studied social justice issues. She was planning to use her degree in order to make her dreams of police reform and other areas of social justice for the Black community come true.
With the time that she dedicated to her video blog, Sandra would have surely been a woman to watch, but her life was sadly taken away from her. On July 13, 2015, she was stopped by a Texas State Trooper, falsely arrested on a felony charge, and faced a $5,000 bail on that fateful Friday evening. By Monday, she was dead and found hanging from a noose. It was implied that this nearly 6-foot tall woman, with a fire inside of her to change the world as she knew it, committed suicide in her jail cell.
Initially, this news induced a knee-jerk reaction from our community, urging the Black Lives Matter movement to acknowledge that police brutality was not only being experienced by Black men.
However, once footage was released of a justifiably irate Sandra speaking in defense of her innocence during the traffic stop, a question arose if somehow she brought her death upon herself. The outcome of the investigation of Sandra's death resulted in the officer who started the aggressive verbal confrontation being fired but not being charged with more than a misdemeanor. Her family was awarded $1.9 million in a wrongful death suit, which is more than many other families received who have fallen victim to losing their loved ones at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us. Her sister Sharon Cooper spoke with The Root about her beloved Sandy, sharing:
"She mattered to an immense amount of people; she had a village that genuinely loved and cared about her; and quite frankly, I think she's given rise to a generation of change makers. She's given permission to be unapologetic about being seen and heard and being treated with a sense of dignity. Because I do genuinely believe that that was what she was trying to show in that moment in her traffic stop is that she deserves to be treated with dignity just as much as majority counterparts."
Sandra Bland's sisters Shante Needham (L), Sharon Cooper (R) Charise Frazier
HBO has released the explosive documentary, Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, where we are able to hear accounts directly from Sandra family, legal team, and from law enforcement officials who will vividly paint a picture of the events surrounding Sandra's death. Eerily enough, there is narrative from Sandra herself gathered from her vlog "Sandy Speaks". Cooper explains:
"I think it's really eerie and ironic that she's able to narrate her own documentary; it's really something. She really leveraged social media for good, even speaking on topics that aren't even that popular and that make people uncomfortable. But change doesn't come from comfort; it comes from getting uncomfortable."
It is a relief to know that Sandra did not die completely in vain and her name will live on through our rage over the loss of her life. The family will likely never know the full details of what happened to her because of the misinformation and lack of information given to them. At the very least, we will be able to humanize Sandra and other victims who have become popular names and hashtags.
With injustices such as these occurring in our society, there can be a feeling of helplessness in our community. A question of, what now? To that I say, we keep her name alive.
We fight. We vote. We cry. We protest. We seek and spread more information. We let the feeling of loss resonate in our souls. We do anything in our power to not become desensitized to the loss of innocent lives, especially at the hands of those who are ordained to serve and protect us. We resist.
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Tune in to the documentary, which is now airing on HBO and HBO2 and click here to check out the trailer.