In the three years since Sandra Bland‘s death, the world still grapples with the loss of her deeply profound life.
HelloBeautiful asked noted Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, strategists and organizers Duanecia Evans, Jamira Burley, and author Andrea Ritchie of”Invisible No More,” to share their thoughts on what our hearts can muster in light of Bland’s death.
Her arrest on July 10, 2015 from failure to signal at a traffic stop resulted in a physical encounter with a Texas police officer–captured on dash cam for the world to see. Three days later on July 13, her body was found hanged in her jail cell. Bland’s family and friends stunned by police reports of suicide, called for an independent investigation into her death. The arresting state trooper, Brian Encinia, was indicted for perjury in making false statements surrounding Bland’s arrest, but the charge was later dropped.
There is no justification for her death other than to note the open space her light once held. In the years and months following, more Black women have also found a similar fate. We coined the terms #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName to thread their lives, photos and memories together. And while our stories of police brutality and state sanctioned deaths are largely ignored by mainstream media, we are still here learning, fighting and loving in your honor.
Patrisse Cullors, writer, activist and co-founding member of Black Lives Matter
“Sandra Bland’s murder changed me forever. When Sandra was killed I felt like a part of me died. She was a young Black woman who could have been me. I knew that the claim of suicide was a lie and a desperate attempt at covering up Sandra’s murder. Our work to challenge anti black racism and gender based violence was absolutely necessary in 2015 and it’s absolutely necessary now. Sandra, I love you.”
Duanecia Evans, Managing Partner & Lead Strategist, Seventh Suite
“Sandra’s spirit reminds me that in every space that I have the privilege of occupying, Black women deserve center stage. As a Black woman, I will always do whatever I can to ensure that we are always fought for. That our perspectives are heard and our impact shared. It is no longer enough for us to be honored for taking care of everyone else, it is time for us to be taken care of.
The silence around Sandra pushed me toward acknowledging just how easy it is for the world to try and forget us. To try and silence us. It is now my responsibility to make sure that the world sees Black women as a priority. Not because of our labor, but because we are valuable. We are worthy.
Jamira Burley, Head of Youth Engagement & Skills, Global Business Coalition for Education
“When I first heard the news of the state-sanctioned murder of Sandra Bland, I was both devastated and afraid by the lack of respect black lives were given by those who are entrusted to protect us — but what I’ve learned in the aftermath of Sandra’s murder is that police were never created to protect us. They are lawfully required to enforce laws that are often rooted in racism, set in place to systematically oppress those at the very margins of society.
So while Sandra is not the first or unfortunately the last black woman to be murder by police, her death symbolized the experiences of black women who suffer many of the same circumstances of black men, but their lived experiences and sometimes their death is overshadowed. Every day I leave my house scared of any encounter with police because anyone of us could be Sandra, if we are stopped at the wrong time, wrong place and by the wrong police officer, who doesn’t value who we are and that is not the American dream I was taught.”
Andrea Ritchie, writer, lawyer & activist
“Sandra’s story is simultaneously unique to her, representative of national trends in policing of Black women documented in “Invisible No More,” and a call to action for all of us to confront ongoing racial profiling and police violence targeting Black women, to end the money bail and pretrial detention that kept Sandra behind bars after an unjust arrest, and to prevent the harms and dangers of solitary confinement and medical abuse and neglect of Black women in police custody.
Sandra has also been on my mind lately as more and more instances of violent policing and punishment of Black women’s mere public presence and protest of discriminatory treatment come to light, from Chikesia Clemons to Mama Campbell, and so many more. So many of us do what Sandra did every day – change lanes without using an indicator, especially when pulling over to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle. The fact that such a common act, escalated by an officer arbitrarily and violently abusing his power can lead to death is testament to why Black women’s experiences of policing must be at the center of both our analysis and action. I hope many people will be inspired by the HBO documentary “Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland,” made in close collaboration with her family, in theaters this fall, to honor her life and legacy of resistance by demanding justice in her name and going beyond her case to do just that.”