This month, activist Sandra Bland died mysteriously in a Texas jail cell after a routine traffic stop in Waller County, Texas. Police have claimed that Bland hanged herself in the cell, but her friends and family have questioned the account from the beginning. So far, the Department of Public Safety has said trooper Brian Encinia violated its "procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy" during the arrest, and he has since been placed on administrative duties, according to the The Dallas Morning News. Until more questions are answered, Bland's family has asked that her death not be "politicized" or turned into a hashtag. Rather, they want her to be remembered for the amazing person that she was. Bland championed a number of civil rights causes, and there are ways you can help support them in her memory.
Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, spoke at a memorial service Tuesday night at Bland's alma mater, Prairie View A&M. Bland had recently moved there to take a job at the university, and Reed-Veal said Bland told her "my purpose is to go back to Texas and stop all the injustices in the South," according to The Dallas Morning News. Bland was known for her outspokenness and activism in the fight against police brutality and other civil rights causes, and you can help support them as a tribute to her memory.
Black Lives Matter
Bland often posted videos on Facebook with the hashtag #SandySpeaks in which she talked about police brutality and racial inequality in the U.S. She believed in the power of using social media to share your views and empower yourself. In one of her videos, she said that the easiest way to start supporting a cause like #BlackLivesMatter is to support it and discuss it in your home:
If we want a change, we can really, truly make it happen. We sit out here and talk about, "we need the next so-and-so" ... No, we don't. Start in your own home, start with you.
The movement for racial equality is steeped in a legal system that historically favors white men and disproportionately delivers harsher penalties for black men who break the law. Helping support solutions to the root cause of police brutality and racism isn't super easy, but you have a lot of options. You can share information on your Facebook page about the issues and engage in dialogue when you see someone spreading racist or false information. You can volunteer for an organization like the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center. Or you can simply stay informed about police brutality and race issues in the U.S.
The Power Of A Vote
Bland shared a video on Facebook as part of her #SandySpeaks series that encouraged voting. All of her videos start out with an empowering and motivating message like "What are you doing out there to be productive today?" In the April video, Bland, who was from Chicago, reminded other Chicago citizens to get out and vote:
If you do not vote, you do not have a voice. You cannot complain about what's going on if you do not go out there and do your part.
Support this cause is easy if you're 18: just register to vote and pay attention to candidates and their stances so that you're informed come voting time. Further, if you want to protest voter ID laws, which can keep students, minorities, and the elderly from voting, write your local representative asking them not to support any voter ID legislation. If there is voter ID legislation already in place in your state, make sure you read up on it well before an election so that you can get registered and vote to properly stick it to the man.
Poverty Alleviation & Income Inequality
This is one of the causes that Bland listed on her LinkedIn page as something she cares about. She listed a number of social justice causes, but this is one that has become particularly pressing in the last few months amidst fights for a higher minimum wage.
Poverty and racial justice movements often go hand in hand, because a legal system that historically favors one race over another is also going to contribute to an unequal income distribution and vice versa. You can help fight poverty in your community by donating food, clothing, books, old furniture, money, and time. Volunteer for a local food bank, a community center, or an employment center — wherever you think your skills could best be put to use to help others. You can support campaigns like the Fight For $15 and you can vote for candidates that prioritize solutions for income inequality over supporting the rich. If you're great at organizing events, you could set up a benefit concert or a 5K run and donate the proceeds to a local organization that's fighting poverty. Like Bland said in her video about social media, "If we want a change, we can make it happen."
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