Lisle church keeps Sandra Bland's spirit alive
A year after Sandra Bland's death, her presence remains alive within the walls of the Lisle church she faithfully attended.
DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church held a memorial Sunday for the former Naperville resident, who died in July 2015 after being placed in a Texas jail cell after a traffic stop. The arrest was captured on video and her death became national news.
Her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and her sister, Shante Needham, took part in a candle-lighting ceremony during services at the church Sunday. In the center of the church, in front of a table that held Bland's picture, a candle and a vase of flowers, Reed-Veal and Needham shed tears and hugged church officials.
Senior Pastor the Rev. James Miller remembered Bland as "a friend and a daughter and a sister."
"We're remembering somebody who made a Women's Day announcement three weeks before her death. We're remembering somebody who sat in the pews of this church and was an active member," he added.
Miller recalled Reed-Veal joining the church 15 years earlier as a single mother who wanted to give her five daughters "the best opportunity in life that they could have."
Miller told the congregation Bland had "questions about salvation and how you live in this world of misery and pain as a Christian," but that she worked out her salvation before her death.
Reed-Veal thanked fellow church members for their prayers and encouragement, and in turn encouraged them to be patient with their wait for justice.
"We still have no knowledge of anything. And it's all right," she told the crowd. "Please don't say, 'It's taking too long. What's going on?' God's doing what he's doing."
Members of the church choir wore purple shirts inscribed with white letters spelling "REMEMBER SANDY BLAND," as well as a quote: "Freedom is conditional."
One of the choir members, Elizabeth Boone of Aurora, said she was close with Bland.
"We were just like pals. She and all the people in the choir as well," Boone said. "We all knew her. We have choir members that she babysat for. They took care of her. We were like a family."
Choir member Kim Fields of River Forest said she was affected by Sunday's service, looking at it from the perspective of Bland's mother, who lost her child.
"How do you move forward as a parent when you have experienced something like this?" she said.
Another worshiper, Robert Pettis of Hickory Hills, spoke of recent racial tensions, and said people on both sides need to admit there are issues they need to address.
"We need love. We need understanding. We need empathy on both sides," he said.