CHICAGO » A candlelight vigil was held in Chicago’s Federal Plaza late today to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in a Texas jail cell after a traffic stop.
Bland was pulled over by a Texas state trooper and taken to the Waller County jail in Hempstead, Texas. Three days later, she was found hanging from a jail cell partition. A plastic garbage bag was around her neck, and a medical examiner ruled her death a suicide.
Dashcam video of her arrest and the circumstances of her death provoked national outrage.
The vigil this evening was hosted by Women’s All Points Bulletin, which supports female victims of police violence, and Black Lives Matter Chicago. It was attended by Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed Veal, and other family members.
Bland had been moving to Texas from the Chicago area at the time of her death.
Despite being delayed by a thunderstorm, about 200 people showed up for the vigil, which began with a prayer and was expected to end the same way. In between, one of Bland’s sisters, Shante Needham, and others read poems.
Separately, the suburban Chicago church where Bland grew up, DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, plans candle-lighting ceremonies Sunday during its 8:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. services.
Bland’s mother is scheduled to speak at the church Aug. 13, and the church plans a trip to Texas in November. There church members plan a peaceful prayer meeting outside the jail where Bland died. They also plan to tour Prairie View A&M University, Bland’s alma mater, and celebrate services with Hope AME Church in Prairie View, which has hosted rallies and prayer gatherings in Bland’s memory.
DuPage AME Church also plans its Sandra A. Bland Diversity Institute on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. The Rev. James Miller, pastor of the church, said the ceremonies are designed to comfort Bland’s family and congregants who knew her.
The anniversary of Bland’s death comes the week after five Dallas police officers were killed by a sniper during a protest over recent killings of black men by police. Miller said it’s clear from the current landscape in the U.S. that social inequities exist.
“The African-American community cannot be the only ones talking about civil rights and equity,” Miller said. “It’s when white people start talking about it that real action can take place.”