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A city in Texas will rename a major street in honor of Sandra Bland. She’s the African-American woman who was found dead in her jail cell last month days after being stopped by a state trooper. From Houston Public Media, Syeda Hasan reports.
SYEDA HASAN, BYLINE: Even weeks after Sandra Bland’s death, people still feel passionately about what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Sandy still speaks, Sandy still speaks.
HASAN: Dozens of people marched this week more than a mile to Prairie View City Hall when the council voted to rename University Drive as Sandra Bland Parkway. It’s a busy roadway that leads to Prairie View A&M, a historically black university which is Bland’s alma mater. She had just moved back from Illinois to begin a job there when she was arrested during a traffic stop on July 10. Officials say Bland hanged herself in her cell at the Waller County jail three days later. Her apparent suicide was one of the latest in a string of deaths of African-Americans while interacting with law enforcement. Resident Denise Mattox says the street will honor Bland’s memory in a community still shocked by her death.
DENISE MATTOX: And maybe because we are remembering every day, with every citation that’s written, every time we turn down this road, we’re remembering what can tragically happen if we don’t do things correctly.
HASAN: In dash cam footage of Bland’s arrest, she can be heard complaining she’s in pain as she’s put in handcuffs. The white state trooper who arrested her has since been removed from patrol duty. Prairie View A&M graduate, Michael Moore, thinks it’s good to rename the street.
MICHAEL MOORE: When police officers stop any of our students at Prairie View that they’ll always be able to write that name, Sandra Bland, just to remind their consciousness that, hey, look, I can’t treat this person bad or do any kind of unlawful things to the students.
HASAN: For Bland’s family, it’s an important step as they continue to seek answers. They’ve commissioned an independent autopsy and filed a federal lawsuit against Waller County and state officials. Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper, lives in Chicago and thinks of the activists in Prairie View as ground soldiers honoring her sister’s memory and holding authorities accountable.
SHARON COOPER: I think that the reminder that’s there is that there’s more work to be done from a community policing standpoint, and so naming that street in her honor is a reminder of that, not just to law enforcement in that community, but to the citizens in that community as a whole.
HASAN: The name change is expected to go into effect in October. The city also voted to build a park named after Bland. For NPR News, I’m Syeda Hasan in Houston.
— NPR News