• Faith Vazquez

Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland



For today's film, I will be talking about the function of film. It was in true story dramas, biopics and documentaries that I found my calling for film. I was blown away by the power and usefulness of these on-screen stories.

It is with great pride and sorrow that I introduce today's film, Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, a documentary that shows the events that led up to the death of Sandra Bland as well as accounts from family and friends speaking on the beautiful person that she was.

Sandra Bland

If you aren't aware, Sandra Bland was a Black woman who was stopped for failure to signal a lane change. The exchange between Sandra Bland and State Trooper Encinia went south after Encinia asked Sandra Bland to put out her cigarette. After physically assaulting Sandra Bland, he arrested her on the false charge of assault on an officer. It was because of this charge that Sandra Bland was placed into an isolated cell in the back of the sheriff's office, for fear that she was a violent threat to those around her. It was in that cell where she was found hanged 3 days later. Her death was ruled a suicide; although many find that ruling suspicious.

The Function This Film Plays

I respected this film so much because although it had a specific motive and the director's opinion was readily felt, the film itself was as unbiased as it could be in this situation. You cannot be fully unbiased or neutral in situations surrounding injustice but this film got as close as one could get. We heard from the sheriff and District Attorney of Waller County, where Sandra Bland's life ended. These interviews gave a more unbiased perspective and a fuller scope of the case and everything that was done, and not done, before the death of Sandra Bland.

The interviews included people from both sides of the line and Sandra Bland was given a voice, even from death. Sandra had a channel from which she would post videos speaking her mind on social issues within and around the Black community, it was called "Sandy Speaks". Clips from "Sandy Speaks" were included and gave the film a more well-rounded picture of who Sandra Bland was. The nature of Sandra Bland's death, which was and still is heavily disputed, was argued to have been a reflection of her character and including these clips of Sandra speaking for herself gave a perspective of her that the judicial system did not care to hear.

I, personally, felt inspired by Sandra Bland. I felt as though she was my friend because of this film and as a result was also filled with deep sorrow because we lost her. This film humanizes Sandra Bland like Officer Encinia refused to. Her words live on through this film and any attempts to silence her are thwarted by this film, protests, posts, and all the people who knew her or didn't know her but scream her name out loud for the world to hear. She believed in healing the Black community from the inside out and using her voice to incite change and unity, and in that way, I relate to Sandra Bland.

I believe this film also functioned as catharsis for Sandra Bland's family and friends. Her loved ones were left with many questions and getting them answered was difficult. This documentary and its interviews allowed the family to speak their minds, stand up for Sandra in a safe environment and let the world know the pain they were feeling. The film also allowed us into behind-the-scenes conversations with the legal team for Sandra Bland's family and gave me slight relief to see that the lawyers tried their very best to get justice for her. Her family tried everything they could to find the truth.

There was also the fear that Sandra Bland's story, and name, would fall on deaf ears. Unfortunately, like with most movements, the Black Lives Matter movement has often overlooked Black women abused and killed; despite the movement being founded by women. It is important to note that Black women's lives are in danger too, yet their stories rarely get the same media coverage and socio-political support that Black men's stories do. Though Sandra's name has stayed strong in the mouths of protesters, this film immortalizes her story. May the world never forget Sandra Bland.

Resources

The African American Policy Forum and Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies founded the #SayHerName campaign in 2014 to bring awareness to the stories of Black girls and women who are victims of racist police violence and provide support to their families.

https://aapf.org/sayhername

Breonna Taylor was a Black woman killed by plainclothes police officers, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, during a raid for which they secured a "No-Knock" warrant. During this raid, they were looking for illicit drugs and supposedly received a tip that Breonna Taylor's boyfriend was in possession of these drugs. When they entered Breonna Taylor's home, she was sleeping next to her boyfriend and he used his registered firearm to defend them, understanding the officers to be intruders since they never announced themselves. These plainsclothes officers, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, fired 22 shots into the home, 8 of them hitting and killing Breonna Taylor.

No drugs were ever found and the suspect in their case had already been arrested earlier that same day.

#SayHerName #BreonnaTaylor

Petitons:

To demand charges to be filed and damages paid to Breonna Taylor’s family by the LMPD.

A list of demands, some of which have been met as a result of Breonna Taylor's case.

Calling for the termination of the officers involved, only one of which has been terminated.

Louisville Officials:

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer: (502) 574-2003

Louisville MPD: A contact form is available on the department’s site.

Special Prosecutor, Attorney General Daniel Cameron: Call 502-696-5300 or e-mail attorney.general@ag.ky.gov

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear: Call 502-564-2611

Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Thomas Wine: Call 502-595-2300 or e-mail winejcooke@louisvilleprosecutor.com

Donations:

GoFundMe

Louisville Bail Out fund for protesters

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© 2020 by Faith Vazquez