AT and Willowbrook students had the opportunity on Feb. 19 to participate in a discussion and presentation about Sandra Bland, a Willowbrook alum who inspired those around her, and was outspoken about racial injustices in our society.
Bland, a vocal civil rights activist, was known for her strength and dedication to her beliefs. She was a firm Black Lives Matter supporter and regularly shared her thoughts through her social media.
Although she had a strong influence in the media, her death is what got the media talking.
She was arrested for a minor traffic violation on July 10, 2015. The exchange between the officer and Bland quickly escalated, leading to her arrest.
Three days later, Bland was found deceased in a Waller County Jail cell. Although the circumstances surrounding her death seemed very suspicious, her death was quickly ruled as a suicide, which is what caught the media’s attention.
Her story attracted world-wide media attention, and started online petitions in an attempt to encourage that the case be investigated by the Justice Department.
Bland’s case was considered a turning point in the Black Lives Matter movement, and it started to spread the word about the racial injustices that still exist in our society today.
Her influence has touched on the lives of many, including those in our very own community. The presentation brought to AT students helped to express Bland’s message of racial equality for all.
She believed that we as people should all be educated on these injustices, especially those who aren’t put into those situations and have very different experiences.
The presentation featured a video that highlighted some of Bland’s inspirational moments in the media, including videos she posted online of herself voicing her opinions and giving others the courage to stand up for what they believe is right.
She posted a series of videos she called “Sandy Speaks” where she would discuss different issues in our world and encouraged everyone to have a positive influence on those that are around you.
“Do what you can to be a positive light in someone’s life; I hope that I’ve done that for you,” Bland said.
In addition, Shante Needham, Bland’s sister, has carried on Bland’s message and influence. Needham felt that it was her duty to continue Bland’s legacy of empowerment, and to fight for justice for her sister and for others who have experienced the same thing she did.
“It takes a lot of boldness to call out the things that Sandy was calling out,” Needham said.
“She set the tone, and she caused a lot of people to open their eyes to what was going on, because a lot of people act oblivious to what’s going on until it smacks them in the face. But really, as a whole, we should be more informed on what is going on in the world.”
Needham was thrust into the public eye after her sister’s horrific death, and since then has done nothing but stand strong and encourage everyone to speak up on these matters.
She has always had a passion for activism and empowering others, and now travels the country in order to spread awareness and fight for justice.
Needham expressed the need for justice in this case and stated that until law enforcement is held accountable for what happened to Bland, justice will not be served.
Many social media users utilize hashtags in her memory, including #SandyStillSpeaks, #SayHerName, and #SandraBland.
We should always remember Sandra Bland, and never forget her legacy, while also demanding justice for her.