The Women of Waller County

randy r. potts

While shooting for Buzzfeed this summer I noticed it seems to be women who are leading the way in keeping alive the memory of Sandra Bland.

Below are photos & impressions complimenting Tamerra Griffin’s detailed, important reporting about student activism at PVAMU.

Prairie View A&M students along with local residents marched to city hall to demand University Drive be named for Sandra Bland.

the women of The Marching Storm Band.
Sandra Bland played trombone.

I like to think that Sandra Bland’s “attitude” during her encounter with Officer Brian Encinia was influenced by her time with the Marching Storm.
I like to think that I recognize that game face.

A recurring face: Alex Lemming.
She confirmed that yes, she knew: Sandra Bland also played trombone.

After the vigil in the campus chapel - holding banners, shouting her name- we walked the mile to Hope AME. It was mostly women who were the speakers, the song leaders, the banner carriers, the chanters, the listeners.

Latoya Smith was Sandra’s sorority sister.
She’s back on campus regularly now, telling the new kids about her sister.

Latoya with Mrs. Sharon Cooper, sister to Sandra Bland.
They were marching to Prairie View City Hall.

At the jail in Hempstead they have been “improving on the property” since Sandra died: new barricades, a shade tree cut down and, now, a paved parking lot. The Reverend Hannah Bonner of First Methodist in downtown Houston held a vigil there every day for the first two months after Sandra’s death — until such time, she told me, that the students could take the torch.

Sitting in the parking lot one day I watched a lone white woman approach the jail on foot. She paused in front of the candles and ceramic angels. She crouched down on her haunches— praying? — and placed her small balloon bouquet carefully among the candles.

Carrie Cauley is a seminary student in Dallas but grew up near Waller County; she spent the weeks between Sandra’s death and the first day of school sitting vigil daily with Reverend Bonner. On most days, it was over 100 degrees.

Carie wore no sunglasses, held no umbrella, just a sign:
“What Happened to Sandra Bland?”

One day, her mother came as well.

On the second day of school at PVAMU there was a march to change the name of the street where Sandra was arrested to Sandra Bland Parkway.

Earlier that day, Geneva Reed-Veal- Sandra Bland’s mother- and several sisters brought water to Reverend Bonner and others sitting vigil at the jail.

Later, Ms. Geneva rode in an SUV at the head of the march:

Inside city hall, sweating from the march in the too-crowded room, we heard testimony:

The Prairie View Council voted: every ticket written between the university and Highway 290 would read “Sandra Bland Parkway.”

I’ll be writing more about Waller County on Instagram — both on my own account and possibly on other Instagram accounts as well.

randy r. potts

Written by

Twitter: @thephatic. Assoc. editor @hromadske, contrib. ed @boxturtlebullet; writer/photog seen in @thislandpress, @thedailybeast, @buzzfeed, et al.

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