Sandra Bland's family speaks out at ECC race relations forum
Respect authority and have faith in God that justice will be served, said Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of 28-year-old Sandra Bland, a former Naperville resident who died while in police custody in a Texas jail last July.
Reed-Veal was speaking Monday at Elgin Community College's first "Real Talk" panel discussion focused on race relations. The event also featured Bland's sister Shavon Bland, an ECC early childhood education student, Reggie Kee, a former ECC employee, community activist and minister, and two other students.
Bland was arrested by a Texas state trooper after a routine traffic stop and three days later was found hanged in her cell at the Waller County jail on July 13, 2015. Her death has been ruled a suicide by the county coroner, but the family is disputing the finding.
It sparked nationwide protests against Bland's arrest, a social media movement and allegations of racial violence.
"How does being pulled over for a minor traffic ticket end in an arrest and ending up dead three days later in a jail cell?" asked Shavon Bland, 30, of Elgin.
Lawyers for the Bland family are trying to gain access to police records, including a Texas Rangers' report on Bland's death and an unedited jail video showing activity outside her cell.
The family is suing trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested Bland and has been charged with perjury, and 13 members of the Waller County sheriff's office, which supervises the jail, according to media reports.
Reed-Veal, of Lisle, said she is "disgusted" that "seven months later to not have any evidence, to have every entity involved want to dismiss the case."
"We don't hate all cops. What we are saying is the bad ones need to go," she added.
Though Bland's story has garnered national media attention, there have been many other deaths of women in police custody nationwide that need to be explained, the family said.
"In the month of July, seven women were found deceased in the prison system," Shavon Bland said. "These ladies should not be forgotten either."
Shavon Bland urged blacks, Latinos, Asians and other minorities who have been victims of racial profiling, stereotyping, or police brutality to stand together in the fight against racial injustice and support each other's causes.
Kee, a motivational speaker and founder of Manu Forti Ministries, said respecting the seat of authority is important, even when the person occupying that seat might be unjust.
"The judgment will come upon those who occupy that seat," he said. "They will be removed. They will be replaced by a greater authority. This is not an easy thing to do. You have to be faithful that God will come and correct what needs to be corrected."
Reed-Veal urged people to help the family continue its fight for justice by supporting the Sandra Bland Legal Fund, to help educate someone through the Sandra Bland Social Justice Scholarship at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, to pray for victims' families, and to write letters to the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation into Bland's death. A petition bearing a million signatures already has been sent to the justice department, she added.
"That's the most important thing you can do and it's going to cost you one stamp," she said. "Make it a duty upon yourself that you will no longer continue to be part of the walking dead. Wake up. That's the Sandra Bland movement. It's not just about Sandy. It is about all those others who are lost. Don't let it be your family member before you get involved."