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Say Her Name: The Life and Death Of Sandra Bland

by Louise Adams
Monday Dec 3, 2018
'Say Her Name: The Life and Death Of Sandra Bland'
'Say Her Name: The Life and Death Of Sandra Bland'  

Sandra Bland narrates the documentary about her death.

Kate Davis and David Heilbroner's thoughtful yet searing documentary "Say Her Name" uses her social media video posts, called Sandy Speaks, to show her committed ongoing Black Lives Matter and social justice activism.

This is important because these documents of her focused, funny, fierce stance against institutionalized racism contradict the Waller, TX, police department's defense that Bland committed suicide by hanging herself with a trash can liner.

Her recorded statements are prescient and chilling: "You can surrender to the cops and still be killed."

Bland was raised in Chicago, but went to Prairie View, an HBCU college in Texas, on a band scholarship. She found a job with a plastics company back home but left when she discovered its largest clients were prisons. She drove back South to take a job with her alma mater and work towards a Masters in political science. She felt called to work against injustice to Blacks there. She was driving to buy groceries when she was pulled over for failure to use a turn signal.

On the dashboard camera, Officer Encinia is shown escalating the situation when Bland was compliant yet vocal about her rights. He opens the car door, slaps her, and throws her on the ground out of camera frame. A bystander films him digging his knee into her back, an injury confirmed later by an independent autopsy.

A family member asks, "If that's the way she was treated in public, on the road, what was going on in the jail?"

There still is no closure for this in-custody death, as Bland's sisters, mother and attorney attest throughout the film. They are clear-headed, patient and persistent as they grapple with their grief, in addition to the rampant inconsistencies (no date and time stamps on prison camera footage), incompetence (time of death, temperature and other post-mortem readings were never taken, plus a face-to-face hourly check didn't happen) and racism (local college students marched in 2008 to demand fair voting rights).

"Our ability to mourn has been paralyzed by the unusual circumstances surrounding her death," one says.

The filmmakers also document the international outcry that followed her July 2015 death, days after she returned to Hempstead, TX. She had wanted to educate her community, "my Kings and Queens," as well as kids on how to interact with the police. Her mom wants to take "what happened" and move into "what happens now."

In the 100-minute film, the sisters say, "We're going to get to the bottom of this, no matter how long it takes. We're going to change history, just like she wanted." Bland wanted to start and continue a conversation, a promise continued in this imperative piece.

Sandy speaks. Sandy's still speaking.

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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