Sandra Bland is a woman whose story has been heard by and touched millions across the world. Bland was found hanged in her jail cell in Waller County, Texas after being arrested at a “routine traffic stop.” Her death was ruled a suicide by the court system of Texas, but the evidence of her case leaves room for speculation of foul play.
Sandra Bland was born today [February 7] in 1987 in Naperville, Illinois. She was one of five sisters. She attended high school at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Illinois and Prairie View A&M University in Waller County, Texas. While in school, Bland was a model in her community, volunteering to be a summer camp counselor three years in a row and donating a lot of her time to a local senior center.
In 2015, Bland began being “radical” online. She started posting video that touched on a plethora of subjects regarding social injustice in this country, some of which spoke on police brutality against Blacks. In one post she wrote:
“In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed.”
Bland has been described as a civil rights activist in Chicago and an influential part of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.
Brian Encina was the officer responsible for the traffic stop that lead to the end of Bland’s life. On the afternoon of July 10, 2015 Bland was pulled over on University Drive in Prairie View, Texas for failure to signal a lane change. The following events went as many traffics gone wrong do. Bland and Encina got into a heated verbal altercation. Encina proceeded to remove Bland from the car and put her on the ground to arrest her.
The original release of the dash cam account of the arrest raised much controversy due to the fact it looked to be edited. Images of cars and people appeared and vanished on and off the screen as the audio continued to roll fluidly. The Texas Department of Public Safety quickly replaced the “damaged” video with a newer one as suspicions arose.
Eyewitness accounts of the arrest state Encina was abusive in his actions and threw Bland to the ground, unnecessarily putting his knee to her neck. Other witnesses say her head was repeatedly slammed on the ground and she said that she could no longer hear due to her injuries.
According to the arrest record, Bland was charged with assaulting of a public servant because she allegedly kicked Encina. She was taken to a Waller county jail and left in a cell alone, because she was deemed as a danger to others.
Her bail was set at $5,000 and according to officers, she was given multiple attempts to have someone post her bail.
On July 13 at 9:00AM, police found Sandra Bland in a slightly standing position hanging from her cell. The motion detecting camera set in Sandra’s cell was not recording from 7:34AM to 9:07AM, but includes the police finding her body. An autopsy concluded her death was caused by asphyxiation and was a suicide.
Following her death, the Black community and supporters were in uproar. Many artists and social action groups clung to this story as another reason for revolution and protest across the country. Her story was used as a catalyst to bring the Black community together, much like the tragic stories of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown.
Many artists took this tragedy to show their stance on social issues based on color in this country. One artist, Devonté Hynes released a track entitled “Sandra’s Smile,” in homage of our fallen hero.
Take some time today and this month to remember Sandra Bland and all others who have fallen fighting for social justice in this country and across the globe. Although they may have been stricken down, like the many heads of the hydra, only more will rise up in their place.