The Powerful Impact of Going to Sandra Bland's Funeral

July 27, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Sandra Bland did not deserve to die—it was a terrible loss for her family and friends, and for society. As revolutionaries, we felt that we had to be at her funeral to express our grief and outrage that such a vital, beautiful young person could be cut down by an enforcer for this system because she was a Black woman standing up for her rights. We put out a call to everyone who was upset or outraged by Sandra’s death to go to the funeral too, to give their condolences and stand with her family. And we wanted to connect our deepest condolences, our outrage over her death and our refusal to live in a society where these completely unnecessary police murders keep happening—to connect all that with those who came to the funeral and with the wider world; and to bring them the message that there is a revolutionary way out of this madness and a way to fight police murder now.

This was a funeral of a beloved person, with all its heartbreaking finality and emotion. It was not a protest, and we wanted to respect and contribute to that. Some of us attended the wake and funeral and others stood on the grass by the street near the church with a large banner, “To the Family & Friends of Sandra Bland and All Those Who are Grieving Her Loss: We Stand with You in Your Sorrow and Outrage.” Others held the “Stolen Lives” banner with pictures of some of the many people killed by police.

Hank Brown, a spokesperson for the RCP, Chicago Branch, conveyed the message in the pamphlet to the media. A part of that message was quoted widely: “I don’t know Sandra, and I don’t know what happened” said Hank Brown of Chicago. “But I do know she didn’t have to die. There’s an epidemic of police terror in this country and people need to stand up.”

As people were leaving, approximately 800 people got the pamphlet with the same words as the banner and the beautiful quotation from Bob Avakian on the back as they left the church. Some people took stacks to get to friends and people they work with. Many people—both family and friends of Sandra and those who did not know her—thanked us for being there. And a significant number stopped to talk. An undercurrent running deep in many of these conversations was people’s sorrow and outrage—and their strong feeling that something has to be done to stop the killing of Black people. Some were shaken because this was just one more in a series of senseless Black deaths. One person said “nothing has changed in America” and described this as a part of “the New Jim Crow,” referencing Michelle Alexander’s book. Others went over and stared at the Stolen Lives banner with the faces of just a tiny fraction of those murdered by the police. Often this was followed by “oh my God. I knew it was bad, but not this bad.”

What to do in the face of all this was a quandary for many people. Some argued for better screening and training of police. Others talked about changing people’s racist thinking or passing better legislation. Others were angrier and talked about how we have to fight back against this epidemic of police murder. One person described the police as “the KKK in blue.” Two young guys who said they were from a Black neighborhood called out the constant racial harassment from the police. They described what the police call “The Negro Olympics” when the police force Black youth to run down the street to see who is the fastest. Three young friends—two Latinas and a white woman, from the suburbs, one of whom had gone to school with Sandy—talked about not only their desire to fight police terror, but how “all our friends want to fight it too.” We called their attention to the importance a massive turnout on October 24 in NYC. We also encouraged people to dig into the RCP statement and learn about the revolutionary way out of this madness. One said she would take the call to her community group. Another will go talk about it at her church.

People were agonizing over how to come to grips with the pain and horror of Sandy’s death. A mother was sitting in the church with her very young daughter, when the daughter said: “Mommy, why did Sandy die?” At first the mom didn’t answer, so the girl asked again: “Why did Sandy die?” Finally, the mom said “They don’t know.” But, in spite of her mom’s shushing, the young girl kept asking: “Why did Sandy die? Why did Sandy die?” The fact that this is even a question that a girl this young feels compelled to ask speaks volumes to why this system has to be gotten rid of at the earliest possible moment. And the urgency of spreading BA and the revolution he is leading everywhere.


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