On July 13, 2015, 28-year-old Sandra Bland died in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell. Now, people who drive navigate the streets around her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, will be forced to #SayHerName.
University Drive now bears the name Sandra Bland Parkway, and as of April 15, it has the signs to prove it. The Houston Chronicle reports that nearly 100 family members, students and activists gathered for a ceremony to commemorate the name change.
“It’s not about just Sandy,” Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said at the ceremony. “It’s about other women and men who’ve died at the hands of officers who’ve sworn to protect them.”
Prairie View mayor Frank D. Jackson reportedly sent out an automated call the night before telling residents that the event had been canceled. He told the Chronicle that he thought it hadn’t been planned well and would give off a “mixed message” to a populace that was split on the name change. But the gathering happened anyway. The one-mile stretch will bear Bland’s name for three to five years, or until a memorial park is established.
Bland’s death was ruled a suicide, after officers said they found her hanging in her cell. Her death came three days after she was violently arrested by former officer Brian Encinia just yards away from where the ceremony was held. Encinia was later indicted for lying about his actions during Bland’s arrest. A grand jury declined to indict jail staff for their role in Bland’s death.