Who Was Sandra Bland?

On July 10, 28-year-old Sandra Bland was pulled over by police in Waller County, Texas for failing to signal a lane change. The incident should have unfolded smoothly from there, perhaps resulting in a warning or at worst, a ticket. Instead, it triggered a series of events that led to Bland’s death in a jail cell on July 13.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston ruled the death a suicide, but friends, family and members of the public have expressed disbelief. In the midst of the painful questions surrounding Bland’s death, we’re taking a moment to remember the life and legacy of a young woman who died far too soon.

1. She had a bright future ahead of her.

Bland was a college graduate, having received her diploma from Prairie View A&M University in 2008. While enrolled she was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., according to the website Watch The Yard. She’d recently interviewed for a new job working in student outreach at her alma mater. Her family told ABC 7 News that she had gotten the job and was excited to begin work on July 15.

2. Friends and family describe her as a happy and successful person.

“Sandy would not have taken her own life. Sandy was strong… mentally and spiritually,” a friend, LaNitra Dean, told ABC 7. One of her sorority sisters, Alana Taylor, told Watch The Yard that “Suicide would be the last thing on her mind as she was on the brink of starting a new chapter of life: a new job, a strong cause to fight for and a thick network of support.” Her family, who she’d been visiting in Illinois just prior to her arrest and death, agree that they can't imagine Sandra wanting to end her life.

3. She was an outspoken opponent of police brutality.

Bland often posted to social media urging friends and acquaintances to think more deeply about racism, inequality and police brutality. Her messages often took the form of video segments, which she called “Sandy Speaks.”

4. She was a voice of encouragement in her community.

In her “Sandy Speaks” videos, Bland spoke words of inspiration and positivity. She became heated at times, impassioned by her feelings about racism and inequality. But rather than projecting negativity, she sought to unite listeners in a deeper understanding of race issues in America.