Houston, Aug. 3 — At every progressive political event in Texas since July 13, the name Sandra Bland has been there — in the signs, on the banners, from everyone speaking into microphones or bullhorns. The name has also been on TV news, in the press, on the radio and in the hearts of those who are still shocked and outraged over Bland’s death in the Waller County, Texas, jail just three days after her arrest by a Texas state trooper.
Last week in several cities there were Light Brigade events for Sandy Bland. From the overpass above Interstate 59 in Houston, to the bridge over the Chicago River, to Washington Square Park in New York City, to San Diego on the West Coast, highways and bridges lit up her name “Sandy Bland” and the hashtag “#SayHerName.”
In Houston the North Texas Light Brigade, the Texas Organizing Project and Code Pink sponsored the lighting event. The bridge over the highway was filled with a multinational crowd of young activists, new activists as well as seasoned ones, all wanting to hold one of the lit-up signs that spelled out S-A-N-D-Y B-L-A-N-D.
Tomorrow night in Houston, Black Greeks Speak Social Justice and Human Rights Council will host a community forum titled “#WHATHAPPENEDTOSANDRABLAND?” to be held at the Barbara Jordan–Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. Speakers include Marlon Smith, Black Greeks Speak; Tarsha Jackson, Texas Organizing Project; Professor Howard Henderson, TSU School of Public Affairs; Sarah Guidry, Earl Carl Institute executive director; and DeWayne Charleston, former Waller County Justice of the Peace. The chief of the TSU Police Department is also on the speakers list.
While many activists are questioning why any police officers need to be on the panel, one of the speakers, Charleston, was the first African American elected in Waller County and served two terms as Justice of the Peace. Charleston was involved in the federal lawsuit that resulted in Prairie View A&M University students finally being allowed to vote, based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1979 in The United States v. Waller County. But for years after the ruling, students at PVAMU were under attack.
As Charleston told Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now!,” “There have been three city [councilmembers], a county attorney, a minister, a judge, two public officials, all arrested, all indicted, some convicted, after they participated in get-out-the-vote efforts, and 19 students, I might add, were also indicted, after they all participated in some get-out-the-vote or campaign initiatives. We’re talking about the suppression of voting rights since the Supreme Court assured that right in 1979. There was one district attorney who threatened to send any students to jail if they dared attempt to vote in Waller County. Nothing happened to him.” (July 27)
Charleston’s book about Waller County, “Then Me: The United States v. Waller County,” gives chilling details about the long racist history of this county where Sandy Bland died. It’s available on Amazon.com.
The next major events in Texas and around the country will occur on the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. In Texas people will descend on the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, 701 Calvit St., on Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. Buses from Houston are being organized by the Texas Organizing Project.
The event is sponsored by Truth 2 Justice, which says, “Aug. 9th will make one full year that Michael Brown Jr. was killed and the BlackLivesMatter movement begun. So, in remembrance of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and so many others we are asking that you respond, Aug. 9th at Waller County Jail! Justice For Sandy.”
Photo: Sandra Bland light brigade.
Credit: Gloria Rubac