By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor

Sandra Bland.  Sandra Bland.  Sandra Bland.  Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland.  Say her name for every year since her justice fighting light was dimmed.

It’s been five years since Bland was arrested, detained and found hanging three days later in a Waller County, Texas jail cell.  Her death was ruled a suicide, however, with the unlawful nature of her arrest in a routine traffic stop- for failure to signal a lane change- Bland’s passing still raises concerns as her family and activists continue to beg for a reopening of her case.

(L-r) A screenshot of Sandra Bland, from her self-titled social media show, “Sandy Speaks,”; and a mugshot of Sandra Bland, who discovered dead in in a Waller County, Texas prison after being unjustly arrested and detained three days earlier. (Courtesy Photo)

While her family and friends remember her as an activist, who had been outspoken against police brutality and involved in the Black Lives Matter Movement, much of the world remembers Sandra Bland as a hashtag and reminder of the horrors of racism.  Further than her own name as a trending topic, Bland’s death sparked another hashtag, #SayHerName–calling attention to the importance of Black women- whose cases tend to be treated as small conflicts in the massive fight for Black Lives and calls for police reform.

In the five years since Bland’s passing- there have been shifts, resurgences and momentum in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism.  Yet what’s even more telling is that in the five years since Bland’s death, so little has changed- so much has stayed the same.

“It’s time y’all.  It’s time.  This thing that I’m holding in my hand, this telephone is quite powerful.  Social media is powerful. We can do something with this. If we want a change, we can really, truly make it happen,” Bland said in an old video she posted, called, “Sandy Speaks.” 

Bland was not afraid to speak out against wrongs, racism and police brutality, but what makes her death even more chilling, and Sandy Speaks, quite eerie considering the activist’s demise, is that she was prepared to change the course of history.  Bland was prepared to be the difference.

“Laugh all you want to, say what you want, but I’m here to change history.  I’m going to do what I need to do for this next generation.  It’s time for me to do God’s work at the end of the day… I know everybody don’t believe in God, which is fine, but I want you to know on {Sandy Speaks}, I’m going to talk about God, because for me, He has truly shown me there’s something out there that we can do,” Bland said quite prophetically in {Sandy Speaks}.   “We can stop sitting around and saying, ‘Maybe next time,’ or ‘Well we knew that was going to happen.’ It’s time to stop knowing ‘that was going to happen,’ and it’s time to start doing something.”

Five years later and what are we doing?  In early May video from Bland’s phone was released, showing a White state trooper pull her over, demand she get out of the car and point a weapon at her, before requiring her to get on the ground.  With the new footage, Bland’s family is demanding a reopening of the case.  In the meantime, activists are still saying Bland’s name- and other wrongfully killed Black women and men- in hashtags and at protests.  

To better retort to Bland’s charge over five years ago, we’re doing something, but that’s because Black bodies are still being used as target practice.

In 2020, there have been several instances of police brutality and racism that have led to the deaths of Black people, including that of Ahmaud Arbery (killed by a former officer and his son in Georgia), George Floyd (killed by Minneapolis police), Rayshard Brooks (killed by Atlanta police) and Breonna Taylor, who was killed while asleep in bed by Louisville police, and her murderers are still free.

On this fifth anniversary of Bland’s death, readers must remember her call to action, to “start doing something,” so that Black people are no longer hashtags in a larger fight to end systemic racism.  

Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland.

We still say her name. 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor