Hundreds gathered in Lisle, Illinois this weekend to say a final goodbye to Sandra Bland, who was laid to rest after she died in police custody nearly two weeks ago.
Wearing t-shirts with the hashtag #SandraSpeaks, mourners continue to seek answers around her death, which Texas police say was the result of suicide. Bland, 28, was arrested on July 10 in the Lone Star state after failing to use her turn signal and allegedly getting combative with cops.
"This is someone who had over 50 selfies, healthy self-esteem," said Rev. Theresa Dear, who is an associate minister at DuPage A.M.E. church, where Bland's funeral was held, according to the New York Times. Dear had known her since Bland started attending as a young girl. "Someone who had two job offers. Someone who just talked to her family and knew that help and rescue was on the way. This is someone who knew the Lord, and was extremely close with her church family and her sisters, her biological family. None of that adds up to taking one's life or suicide."
Indeed, Bland's family is awaiting the results of an independent autopsy, believing the one performed by Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences is "defective." The autopsy, released on Friday, ruled Bland's death a suicide, and Texas county prosecutors concluded that Bland's injuries were consistent with suicide.
The young woman's family, however, doesn't believe she took her own life. “That baby did not take herself out of here,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother, during the funeral. She was planning to make a life in Texas pursuing her true calling, she had told Reed Veal. “Her purpose was to stop all injustice against Blacks in the South.”
Bland was a graduate of Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Illinois, reports The Chicago Tribune. She ran track, played volleyball, was in the marching band, on the varsity cheerleading squad and a member the World Languages Honor Society and the Neo-Phi Steppers, a student-led dance troupe. She was returning to her collegiate alma mater, the HBCU Prairie View A&M University, where she was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, to start a new job as student ambassador.
“We’re not funeralizing a martyr or a victim,” said the Rev. James F. Miller, who officiated Bland's funeral. “We’re celebrating a hero.”
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