On Saturday, the Houston Museum of African American Culture opened an exhibit dedicated to the life and death of Sandra Bland.
The 28-year old was pulled over for a minor traffic violation, arrested, and found dead in her Waller County, Texas jail cell three days after in July 2015. Although her death was ruled a suicide, activists and others criticized the jail’s handling of Bland.
On opening night, visitors were able to walk through the exhibit featuring smiling images from Bland’s life before sitting in a makeshift car to watch footage from the traffic stop that ultimately led to her death.
For her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, sitting in that car was the hardest part of the exhibit. “It felt like when that officer was walking, he was walking towards you,” she told local station KTRK.
Reed-Veal added that she felt like her daughter was telling her story even after her death. “People seeing this exhibit should say to themselves hold on, I’m going to think a little differently about the way I do things—with my interactions with everyone but more so police officers,” she said.
Touching the lives of those who visit
The artists who worked on the exhibit clearly did their homework. Many of the pieces give a glimpse into the type of woman Bland was at the time of her death. “I’m discovering we were very similar. She was a woman who took over 50 selfies, she had very healthy self-esteem, was in a sorority, educated, young had a future ahead of her,” said Lee Carrier, the designer behind the central mural in the exhibit.
Visitors have also been blown away by the emotion of the exhibit.
“The struggles that African American’s face, whether light, brown, or black as it’s called, our realities are sometimes different than our counterparts,” visitor Erinn Miller told the station. “It doesn’t matter if you’re educated or not educated, from the city or the country. Sandra Bland was a classic case.”
Visitors will be able to see the exhibit from now until Feb. 28.
The family of Sandra Bland has settled a wrongful death suit with officials in Waller County, Texas, for $1.9 million, reports CNN.
The amount includes payment for Bland’s death as well as several changes to jail procedures, notes the report. The case became a rallying call in the push for criminal justice reform after the 28-year-old Illinois woman was found dead in a jail cell, three days after she was arrested for failing to use her turn signal in July 2015. Many of the activists argued that she should not have been arrested on a minor traffic infraction or jailed in the first place.
The family’s lawyer, Cannon Lambert, said the final details of the agreement were hammered out on Wednesday night, writes CNN:
Some of the jail procedure changes included in the settlement are:
— Using automated electronic sensors to ensure timely cell checks
— Providing an on-duty staff nurse or emergency medical technician for all shifts
— Providing continuing education for jailer screening
In addition, “the Waller County judge will be seeking passage of state legislation for more funding for local jails regarding intake and booking, screening and other jail support,” the attorney said.
Brian Encinia, the Texas state trooper who arrested her, was “fired after he was indicted on a perjury charge,” notes CNN. And a Waller County jail worker admitted to falsifying log entries showing that he checked on Bland an hour before her death.
The Texas state trooper who pulled over Sandra Bland was indicted on suspicion of perjury Wednesday, making him the only official criminally charged after Bland’s death last summer fueled criticism of police and their treatment of minorities.
The Texas Department of Public Safety announced it would move to fire Trooper Brian T. Encinia.
The indictment marked the conclusion of the grand jury’s investigation of the case.
If convicted of the misdemeanor perjury charge, Encinia faces up to a year in jail, according to Warren Diepraam, a spokesman for the Waller County district attorney’s office. The grand jury declined to indict on a charge of aggravated perjury, Diepraam said.
Bland, 28, who was black, was found hanging by a plastic bag in her jail cell three days after she was arrested July 10 during a routine traffic stop about 55 miles west of Houston.
Encinia pulled over Bland for making an improper lane change. The confrontation that ensued, which led to Bland’s arrest on suspicion of assaulting Encinia, was captured on a dashboard camera video that went viral.
The charge against Encinia stemmed from a one-page probable cause affidavit that Encinia filed with jail officials justifying Bland’s arrest, in which he wrote that the reason he removed her from her car was to conduct a safer traffic investigation, said special prosecutor Shawn McDonald.
“The grand jury found that statement to be false,” McDonald said.
After she was arrested, Bland was taken to the Waller County Jail in nearby Hempstead, where she was unable to make $500 bail. Officials said Bland hanged herself with a plastic bag.
Bland’s family and Black Lives Matter supporters questioned why she had been arrested at all, with some asking whether she had taken her own life. At the time Bland was stopped, she had just accepted a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
Ta-Nehisi Coates marked another professional triumph Wednesday night by winning the National Book Award for nonfiction for “Between the World and Me,” his timely, bestselling meditation on race in America.
In an acceptance speech that prompted a standing ovation from the black tie-clad crowd at Cipriani Wall Street in New York, Coates dedicated the award to Prince Jones, a Howard University classmate who was killed while unarmed by a police officer and who figures prominently in the memoir, written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son.
As Coates explained, the officer responsible for Jones’ death was never disciplined for the killing.
“I’m a black man in America. I can’t punish that officer. ‘Between the World and Me’ comes out of that place,” said Coates, a national correspondent for the Atlantic who was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in September.
“We are in this moment where folks are recording everything on their phones. Every day you turn on the TV and you see some sort of violence being directed at black people,” Coates said, alluding to controversial incidents caught on tape, including the death of Eric Garner, the arrest of Sandra Blandand the killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed man shot and killed in South Carolina this year.
“I have waited 15 years for this moment, because when Prince Jones died, there were no cameras, there was nobody looking.”
Robin Coste Lewis was also named a winner last night – she took the poetry prize for her debut collection, “Voyage of the Sable Venus,” a reflection on the black female form throughout history.
From the stunning attack against a teenage girl by a White male school resource officer at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina last month, to Sandra Bland,who died in a jail cell after a questionable arrest this summer, to Dajerria Becton, 15, who was body slammed by a White cop at a Texas pool party over the summer, violence against girls and women of color in the U.S. is a longstanding problem that needs to be addressed.
That is one reason the White House Council on Women and Girls is hosting a day-long forum today at Wake Forest University. The event will focus on empowering and increasing opportunity for women and girls of color and their peers, officials say.
“Overall, this conference is about recognizing that there are no easy answers to these challenges,”Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said on a conference call Thursday. “We’ve made a lot of progress, and continuing on that path means we need to be more dedicated, more thoughtful, and more rigorous than ever.”
The Council on Women and Girls released a progress report, “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color,” as a follow-up to the 2014 report, and announced independent commitments to help close opportunity gaps faced by women and girls, including those of color.
The effort is part of two independent commitments. One involves a $100 million, 5-year-funding initiative by Prosperity Together to improve economic prosperity for low-income women. The second involves an $18 million funding commitment by the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research—an affiliation of American colleges, universities, research organizations, publishers and public interest institutions led by Wake Forest University—to support existing and new research efforts about women and girls of color, the White House says.
The newly-minted Sandra Bland Parkway in Prairie View, Texas, will keep its name.
The Prairie View City Council voted Tuesday to keep the name for a road that leads into Prairie View A&M University and was renamed this summer in honor of Bland, who died at the Waller County Jail in July after she arrested during a traffic stop, according to KHOU.
Police said Bland was found hanging in her cell after the July 10 arrest. But suspicions arose after the release of a police dashcam video of Bland’s traffic stop and arrest. An officer had stopped Bland for failing to signal a lane change, but their encounter became confrontational, and the officer arrested her for allegedly assaulting him.
To ease tensions in the community, the City Council voted in August to change the name of University Boulevard to Sandra Bland Parkway. It is the same stretch of road on which she was stopped and arrested. Not everyone agreed with the name change, and city leaders on Tuesday heard from a divided community on the issue. But lawmakers decided to keep the new name in honor of Bland, who had moved back to Texas in July to take a job with her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
“The whole world is talking about Sandra Bland,” said one supporter from the council podium, reports the news outlet. “And Sandra Bland is putting Prairie View on the map.”
When the street was renamed in August, ABC 13 reported that hundreds of Prairie View A&M alumni gathered with current students to march from the student-union building to the site where Bland was stopped, and then on to City Hall, where the street was renamed.
“If every time they pull over a student, they have to be reminded of what took place here, then that will help the relationship to be more respectful between the officers and the students,” protester Hannah Bonner told the news station in August.
Prairie View City Council members in Texas are hoping a road renamed after activist Sandra Blandwill serve as a constant reminder of the injustices they say she suffered in Waller County, USA Today reports.
City officials are also hopeful that the road, which leads to Bland’s alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, will also encourage law enforcement to make better choices and always follow best practices when making stops on University Drive, which will become Sandra Bland Parkway for three to five years before the council votes on the matter again.
“I am overwhelmed, and I am just truly thankful to the city of Prairie View,” Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, said in a press conference here after the decision to rename the road.
“This is the first step, the very first step,” Reed-Veal said. “There’s still so much more that needs to be done.”
Bland, 28, was stopped on the same road July 10 for allegedly failing to signal a lane change. When Texas state Trooper Brian Encinia felt his power threatened by Bland’s wit and matter-of-fact tone, he arrested her on a charge of assaulting a public servant.
She was found hanging in her jail cell three days after her arrest, a death that has been ruled a suicide but is also being treated like a murder investigation. According to CNN, the Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating Sandra’s death.
“It is very much too early to make any kind of determination that this was a suicide or a murder because the investigations are not complete,” Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told reporters. “This is being treated like a murder investigation.”
Mathis said the case would go to a grand jury.
“There are too many questions that still need to be resolved. Ms. Bland’s family does make valid points that she did have a lot of things going on in her life that were good,” Mathis said.
Earlier this month, family members filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against arresting officer Encinia and two guards at the Waller County Jail where Bland died, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the county. The New York Times reports that the lawsuit states Encinia made up a reason to arrest Sandra and that jailers failed to react when she refused meals and “had bouts of uncontrollable crying.”
Bland’s family maintains that she never should have been stopped and arrested and they want the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
For those who grew up in the 1980s, Public Enemy was one of a handful of nationally-known hip-hop acts that created socially-conscious rap almost exclusively. From “Don’t Believe The Hype” to “Fight The Power” (from Spike Lee‘s still-all-too-relevant movie about racism and police brutality Do The Right Thing) to “By The Time I Get To Arizona”, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X and the crew were on the forefront of calling out media manipulation, systemic racism and bigotry, and the widespread mistreatment of black people in America.
Now, over 30 years after they’ve formed and three years since their last album, Public Enemy has released Man Plans God Laughs, offering much-needed and necessary protest music once again. The video for the single “No Sympathy From The Devil” was just released today, and it packs a chilling punch. It ties historical acts of racism with the racism of today – and so much of it looks the same (at the 1:56 mark, Sandra Bland‘s mug shot appears and has the effect of a gut punch).
The entire album, which was released a few weeks ago on July 15, can be heard on Spotify:
HOUSTON — The family of Sandra Bland, the Illinois woman found dead in a Texas jail cell last month, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Houston seeking to hold people involved in her death accountable. “We are looking for Waller County and the individuals involved to take accountability,” said attorney Cannon Lambert Sr., who is representing the family.
The lawsuit is filed against Trooper Brian Encinia, the sheriff of Waller County, Texas, two of the jailers and the Texas Department of Public Safety, Lambert said.
Encinia arrested Bland on July 10 in Waller County, Texas. Three days later, on July 13, she was found dead in a jail cell in Hempstead, Texas. Officials say she used a plastic bag to hang herself.
Many of Bland’s family, friends and others on social media worldwide have questioned that explanation. They say she was about to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater.
The 28-year-old was pulled over for failing to signal while changing lanes. She was arrested for allegedly kicking Encinia during a traffic stop near Prairie View A&M. Dashcam video does not make clear whether or not that happened, but does show the encounter quickly escalating after Encinia tells Bland to put out her cigarette.
The trooper was put on desk duty for violating procedures during the stop. “Mr. Encinia is still employed and it doesn’t make sense that the taxpayers are paying for the type of service that he employed on July 10,” Lambert said.
“This family needs an answer to the principle question of what happened to Sandra Bland. It’s why we filed suit,” he said.
The family would like the Department of Justice to investigate Bland’s death as they said the case requires a fresh set of eyes. Last week, Waller County officials released hours of video of Bland inside the jail to try to disprove claims of foul play.
On July 22, police released a 52-minute long dash camera video from Encinia’s car. The clip showed Encinia yelling for Bland to get out of her car and demanding that she put her phone away. “Step out, or I will remove you,” he said repeatedly, opening the driver’s door as she protested.
The release of the video raised questions on whether the video had been edited. The Texas Department of Public Safety disputed those claims, saying the “glitches” in the video came during the uploading process. The next day, the department released the video without the “glitches.”
“I watched the video once. I will not watch it again,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother. She said watching the video she felt “anger, disgust, disappointment and sadness. I have chosen to channel those feelings in another way. … I am angry. Justice is going to be served if the justice system does what it’s supposed to do.”
A University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted on murder charges on Wednesday in the fatal shooting of a driver this month that a prosecutor called “totally unwarranted” and “senseless.”
In the indictment handed up by a grand jury in Hamilton County, the officer, Ray Tensing, is accused of killing the driver, Samuel DuBose, during a traffic stop near the campus on July 19.
At a news conference, the county prosecutor, Joseph T. Deters, said that Officer Tensing “purposely killed” Mr. DuBose after the officer lost his temper in what he called a “chicken crap” traffic stop. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Mr. Deters told reporters. “This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make, totally unwarranted.” A body-camera video of the shooting was also being released.
“He purposely killed him,” Mr. Deters said of Officer Tensing. “He should never have been a police officer.”
Officer Tensing turned himself in on Wednesday after his indictment, according to reports.
The death of Mr. DuBose, who was black, at the hands of Officer Tensing, who is white, joined a string of recent episodes — in Staten Island, Cleveland, North Charleston, S.C., and Ferguson, Mo., among others — that have raised hard questions about law enforcement use of force, and the role of race in policing. Video cameras have recorded many of the episodes and nonlethal encounters like the arrest of Sandra Bland, who died three days later in a Texas jail cell, offering disturbing evidence of the confrontations that often contradicts the accounts of people involved.
Mr. Deters, who also met with Mr. DuBose’s family, said he was shocked by the video. “I realize what this was going to mean to our community, and it really broke my heart because it’s just bad,” Mr. Deters said. “I feel so sorry for this family and what they lost,” he said. “And I feel sorry for the community, too.”
Mr. DuBose, 43, a father of 10, was just south of the university campus, driving a green 1998 Honda Accord without a front license plate, when Officer Tensing began following him, according to an account that Jason Goodrich, chief of the university police, gave on Monday. Moments later, the officer pulled Mr. DuBose over on a side street, a few blocks from the campus, Mr. Goodrich said.
He said that when Officer Tensing asked for a driver’s license, Mr. DuBose handed him a bottle of alcohol instead. But Mr. Goodrich gave no more insight into the confrontation that followed, in which the officer fired one shot that struck Mr. DuBose in the head.
Another university officer who arrived shortly after the shooting, Eric Weibel, wrote in his report that Officer Tensing told him that “he was being dragged by the vehicle and had to fire his weapon,” and that “Officer Tensing stated that he was almost run over.” A third officer, he wrote, said he had seen Officer Tensing being dragged.
“Looking at Officer Tensing’s uniform, I could see that the back of his pants and shirt looked as if it had been dragged over a rough surface,” Officer Weibel wrote.
On an audio recording of police radio communications, after Officer Tensing shouted “Shots fired! Shots fired,” a dispatcher asked who was injured. It is not clear if he replied “I am injured” or “I’m uninjured.”
“I almost got run over by the car,” the officer said. “He took off on me. I discharged one round. Shot the man in the head.”
Another officer can later be heard saying, “It was Officer Tensing that was injured.”
At the news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Deters dismissed Officer Tensing’s claim that he was dragged by the car. Officer Tensing “fell backward after he shot” Mr. DuBose in the head, Mr. Deters said.
The University of Cincinnati closed its main campus in anticipation of grand jury action in the case.