For the first time, after hearing and reading many things about the mysterious death of Sandra “Sandy” Bland, I watched the Say Her Name documentary written about her and the tragedy of her death. Yes, I am 2 years late to watching this documentary. What can I say? I am more of a book person as opposed to shows and movies. Nonetheless, topics like this never expire when we continue to see the same things happen over and over again. When I saw the documentary on one of my rare scrolls through Hulu, I felt compelled to watch it. It was about an hour and 43 minutes of clips of beautiful strong Black women, who are Bland’s immediate family, Bland’s legal team working tirelessly, racist pigs trying to justify her death while also criminalizing her, friends and acquaintances of Bland speaking highly of her, and videos of the loud and proud Sandra Speaks series she started on social media.
I, like many vocal Black women in this country, resonate with what Sandra Bland was sparking. She used her voice like the constitution urges us to do. She used a right that is so important to this country that it is in the first amendment. This is number one on the american agenda until it is utilized by a person with a melaninated face. Despite the attempt to assassinate Sandra Bland’s movement, it lit the world on fire. When I re-watched the video of Sandra Bland being assaulted in her car, by former state trooper Brian Encinia, I noticed that her voice was her power. Her words to Encinia is the only thing that the trooper could have felt threatened by. Her First amendment right was weaponized. Her words were sharp, brave and coming out of the mouth of a Black woman, who knew her rights. Scary right? Wrong. His ego was bruised so he bruised her back as deeply as his leg could go. He threw her into the prison system to silence her for good while Waller County Jail finished the job.
The Spirit of the Unheard
After watching this documentary, it felt like I had watched a horror film. Watching the “mug shots” of Sandra Bland be displayed on the screen literally brought sickness to my stomach. Listening to allegations that the guards propped her up on a wall while dead for a mug shot brought tears to my eyes. What was the picture for? I remember thinking. For memories? This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen them, but this was the first time I could vividly see my face on that screen in place of hers. I looked away in horror. From the terrorism of the state trooper, to the mysteriousness of the death, and the carelessness of the jail’s investigation made the streets the police force patrols feel haunted. It felt that at anytime the same things could happen to me as if the ghost of racist acts or the spirit of unsolved Black deaths and murders was following me around. It was the predator and I was the prey.
Sandra Bland set out to Texas alone and with a prophetic fire in her soul determined to make a change. As Black women, we go out and we handle our business. We don’t wait for the green light. We don’t wait for help. We’ve historically had to struggle alone, be strong, and take care of everyone else around us while simultaneously being the most neglected, unprotected, and disrespected people in this country. As Black women, we subconsciously live in the fear that we have the oppression of being Black and being a woman working against us constantly. In this fear we are often alone, ignored, and vulnerable. We live with the expectation to dance around men, racists, and racist men’s egos while also trying to fight for the liberation of Black people and our very own liberation and protection separately.
This isn’t just about Sandra Bland. This isn’t just about Breonna Taylor, Riah Milton, Shanta Myers, Dominique Fells, etc. all Black women who were murdered because of lack of protection either by the system and/or by society as a whole! This is about the entire Say Her Name movement that is marginalized and drowned out in the midst of our white woman or Black man centered movements. Why is it I left this documentary feeling as if I had just seen the newest Paranormal Activity movie? Why is it that I felt so unsettled while driving home that I constantly looked in my rear view mirror for those death sentencing blue lights? Why is it that I felt unsafe as I walked into my house at night as if someone was lingering in the shadows? I knew that if something were to happen to me that instance, I’d become a hashtag and a 1.9 million dollar settlement at most. As the end of the documentary confirmed, no real justice will be served when we Say Her Name unless we as a collective say it louder and are actually heard.
Justice does not mean hush money; it does not mean being willing to talk about it yet not take action. Justice means making sure our Black women are receiving systemic protection, social protection, an equal platform to express our grievances and outrage loudly and proudly, and actual change when we Say Her Name!
We have an obligation to clear the ghosts of racists acts that follow Black women. The only way this can be a guarantee is if we serve justice to the dead by saying her name loud enough for the power to hear and to change the system to serve ALL lives.