Ahead of upcoming HBO documentary on Sandra Bland, her sisters reveal new details of the case
As HBO gears up to release its documentary Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland on December 3rd, more information is coming to the forefront regarding Sandra Bland’s death in a Waller County, Texas jail cell. And in a recent profile by Essence magazine, her sisters revealed new issues with the case that most of the public didn’t know before.
In 2015, Bland was pulled over by Texas DPS officer Brian Encina who demanded that she put out her cigarette after he approached her window to inform her that she had been stopped for a broken tail light. Bland refused to put out her cigarette, and Encina became agitated, forcefully instructing Bland to exit her vehicle and eventually arresting her in an overly aggressive manner. Bland then spent three days in a Waller County jail cell that did not have a security camera installed and made multiple calls to family and friends to secure her bail before being found dead in her cell. Her death was later ruled a suicide. A portion of the HBO documentary’s title comes from a campaign created by the African American Policy Forum #SayHerName which attempted to call attention to the ways the police were killing Black women whose cases receive comparatively little attention when measured against Black men like Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, and Amadou Diallo.
Bland’s sister Shante Needham described her to Essence as a “bright, beautiful, outspoken, bold, caring, loving and intelligent individual.” As the Bland family investigated her death with their legal team, they discovered major problems, among them, forged log sheets and no fingerprints from Sandra Bland on the makeshift noose that she allegedly used to hang herself.
Sharon Cooper, another of Bland’s sisters, told Essence, “I think that grief is a multifaceted experience that comes with a significant amount of ebbs and flows and there’s no finite timetable that you can put on it.” Cooper also detailed the efforts the family makes to deal with the trauma of this event, including therapy. “I think we experience a lot of trauma, both historically and recently, that we don’t tend to for a number of reasons,” Cooper said. “We’re put into positions where we’re coached to be strong and push through.”
Needham emphasized the family’s need to tell their own story in the HBO documentary, telling Essence, “I want the world to never forget Sandra Bland. And I want the world to know we have to speak out against what’s not right.”