Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail cell nine months ago, and her mom hasn't stopped fighting for justice. Speaking to the recently formed Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls at the Library of Congress, Sandra Bland's mom told congressional leaders to wake up and take action to prevent more black women from dying in jail. "I don’t come to sit and be a part of a caucus where we talk and do nothing," Geneva Reed-Veal said Thursday.
Veal's 28-year-old daughter was found hanged in her cell after being arrested for allegedly assaulting a state trooper who pulled her over for allegedly not using a turn signal while driving. The officer, Brian Encinia, was fired, a decision that was upheld by the Texas Department of Public Safety in March, but no one was indicted for her death. Although police claimed Bland hanged herself, her family still refuses to believe she would commit suicide, and her mom said Thursday: "I as a mother do not believe she committed suicide. I will say that until it’s proven."
Despite this disagreement, Veal wants to raise awareness about the women of color who die in jail but whose names and stories are less well-known than her daughter's.
The heartbroken mother told the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls:
What I’m going to say to you is that I’m here representing the mothers who are not heard, I am here representing the mothers who have lost children as we go on about our daily lives. When the cameras and lights are gone, our babies are dead. So I’m going to ask you here today to wake up. Wake up. By a show of hands, can any of you tell me the other six women who died in jail in July 2015 along with Sandra Bland? That is a problem. You all are among the walking dead, and I am so glad that I have come out from among you. I heard about Trayvon, I heard about all the shootings, and it did not bother me until it hit my daughter. I was walking dead just like you until Sandra Bland died in a jail cell in Texas.
Created with the goal of developing policy that "eliminates significant barriers and disparities experienced by black women," the caucus is the first congressional group focused on black women and girls. Veal pleaded with the politicians to actually do something, and not waste their position in the group simply talking and failing to address the unjust police treatment of black Americans and faulty jail safety that costs lives.
"Movements move. Activists activate. We have got to stop talking and move," Veal said. "So I leave you with this: It is time to wake up, get up, step up, or shut up."
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