The Funeral of Sandra Bland: A Celebration of a Young Black Woman Who Cared Deeply About Justice for Black People

July 27, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


More than 1,000 people attended the wake and funeral of Sandra Bland at the DuPage A.M.E. Church in Lisle, Illinois. More than 150 family members, 50 of her sorority sisters from across the country, and hundreds of church members gathered inside at 9 a.m. Hundreds more, most of whom did not know Sandra, lined up in the hot sun. Many said they were so moved by her story that they felt they had to be there to stand with the family and stand up for justice for her. Most of the people attending, about 95 percent, were Black. There were couples, parents who brought their children, groups of young Black women in their 20s who felt they had to show their support, groups of young men wearing #SandySpeaks T-shirts. As they waited, people talked about all the lies and innuendos being spread by Texas officials and the media, and how they could not accept this. Eventually everyone was able to witness the funeral in overflow rooms.

Sandra Bland

A beautiful photo of Sandra lit up the sanctuary with her radiant smile, in heart-wrenching contrast to the lifeless body in the casket. In the printed program celebrating her 28 years of life, Sandra's vitality, strength, and spunkiness jump off the page in dozens of photos with her family and friends, her years as an athlete, as a trombonist in the Marching Storm at Prairie View A&M University, her sorority, graduation, and church activities. It hit like a blow to the heart: she was so full of life and then… suddenly cut down because of a traffic stop that never should have happened.

This funeral was a celebration of who Sandra really was and how beloved she was. This was in defiant opposition to the questioning and demonization of her character in the media and social media. And it was a demand for justice. Reverend Dr. James Miller said, “Tell this nation we’re not funeralizing a martyr or a victim, we’re celebrating a hero… She was a strong woman, a strong Black woman, and the authorities in Waller County, Texas will discover that you can disrespect a strong Black woman, but you are going to pay for that. The end is just the beginning.” He called for an investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

What came through over and over was that Sandra cared deeply about justice for Black people and acted on this with a “trailblazing spirit of activism” and a “fiery spirit that needs no apology,” in the words of a statement from her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho. “Her dreams were on the cusp of being actualized—to be a hope for a marginalized section of society. We Will Say Her Name! Her Life Mattered!” Her death is a great loss to society.

People waiting to go into the church for Sandra Bland's funeral
Waiting in line to get into the funeral.
Photo: Special to

Reverend Theresa Dear said before the service that Sandra should be celebrated for standing up for herself: “She asked the question ‘why should I put out the cigarette?’ She asked 12 times, ‘Why am I being arrested?’ And so we celebrate that part of her personality.”

Sandra’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, speaking out through her immense pain, upheld Sandra’s purpose in life. Sandra had told her a week before her death, “I’m ready to go back to Texas to stop all the injustice against Black people.” And Sandra’s mother demanded that no stone go unturned in getting to the truth of what happened to her. “I’m going to find out what happened to my baby. My baby has spoken. She’s still speaking, and no, she didn’t kill herself.”

Reverend Dr. Byron T. Brazier said that Sandra urgently requested that he meet with her a month ago about the police murder of Mike Brown and many more across the country. “She pulled out a binder three inches thick with all the research she had done, she was committed to the cause, #SandySpeaks, and she has spoken. We have a responsibility to not let her voice die. We have a responsibility to speak for her.”

Punctuating all this were the deep agonizing and outrage about why Black people are still being treated this way after centuries of oppression. Rev. Miller spoke about how this was “not a racial issue, it’s a spiritual issue between some folks and God. All men are created equal by God, but half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were slave owners, and the rest went along with it so they could create this nation… and when the Southern states seceded they said straight out that ‘God created white men over all the other races.’”

It was significant that Dick Durbin, a U.S. senator from Illinois, and Bill Foster, U.S. congressman from the area, both felt compelled to come to the funeral to speak directly to the widespread outrage around Sandra’s needless death, while trying to keep people looking for answers from the same system that is causing these horrors. Durbin and Foster announced, to a standing ovation, that they have formally requested that the DOJ do a “full and fair investigation” into the whole case. But the fact is the DOJ overwhelmingly clears killer cops, as they recently did in the Mike Brown case, and has done nothing to stop the escalating epidemic of police murder.

The response of Durbin and Foster reflects an approach among sections of the ruling class for a problem for which they have no fundamental solutions. The legitimacy of the role of the police—as a critical armed force for this system, especially in maintaining the oppression of Black and Latino people—is being questioned and breaking down among broader and broader sections of the people, including some in the suburban middle class. The growing questioning that Sandra's death has caused—about what is wrong with this country, and why do the police keep killing people, and demands for answers—poses the possibility of a scenario of growing disaffection that could be a nightmare for the ruling class, and open up revolutionary potential.

Outside the church where Sandra Bland's funeral was held

Both of these things can be seen in the words of a 34-year-old Black woman artist: “Going to the funeral made me see that I am Sandra Bland, that’s me. It unleashed my anger, it makes me want to do more to stop this. They say she was uppity; Black people who speak out are uppity. Did she, do I, deserve to die because of being outspoken and speaking out on social media? A cop should not dictate whether or not to put out a cigarette or what your attitude should be. I have had the police make me get out of the car and have them treat me like a piece of meat. My son is nine years old and I’ve had to tell him the police can kill Black people and get away with it. Why is this allowed to continue?”

The blood is on the hands of the rulers of this system and their murdering cops. The killing of Sandra Bland is yet another reason that the resistance to police murder and brutality must continue and become even broader and more determined—and that this fight must be taken to a whole other level with the Rise Up October protests on October 22-24 to STOP these outrages and SHUT THIS DOWN.


"Is this the America you want to live in?"

Activists with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) received the following message from a woman, the day before she attended Sandra Bland’s funeral with them:

"I will be there, not because I want to. I want to hide, eat stupid food, watch a stupid movie. But Sandra is calling me out, her strength in the midst of great fear is tearing through me.

"America we are at war, and the bombs are exploding within the bodies of black children, mothers and fathers. The bombs are exploding in the bodies of us, the silent white complicit ones. WE are the inhuman; blinded by fear, deaf and dumb through swallowing the myths of racism and the continued strategic enslavement of black people.

"We've created a comfortable hell, thinking it is the American Dream, another pretty name for white privilege, for the power to stop, arrest, sentence, incarcerate, execute blacks for profit, and be affirmed in doing so.

"Is this the America you want to live in?"


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