Hundreds of mourners attended the wake and funeral of Sandy Bland, the 28-year-old Naperville woman who was found dead in a Texas jail cell 12 days ago. Outside the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church, her family members received hugs and support from well-wishers, including dozens of Bland's sorority sisters.
Inside, a large photo of a smiling Sandra Bland was a few feet from her open casket where mourners passed by silently, paying their last respects.
“We celebrate the fact that she walked and lived in her truth. We celebrate that Sandy Bland was someone who refused to be subdued and silenced and she lived in her own truth,” said Rev. Theresa Dear of the DuPage A.M.E. Church.
Bland's death came three days after a traffic stop for changing lanes without signaling. The stop became contentious when a white state trooper allegedly violated police procedures.
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Bland spent three days in jail before her death. County prosecutors say autopsy results point to Bland hanging herself. In an emotional eulogy from the pulpit today, her mother said, "I'm telling you that my baby did not take herself out. I'm the mama and I still don't know what happened to my baby." Bland’s mother pleaded with supporters, however, to remain calm and let her own family pursue the truth. "This is war," she told the standing room only crowd. "God is going to take care of it. Let him do it."
“Very powerful, very passionate, just simply incredible. She knocked the ball out of the park challenging people to be decent, to keep her daughter’s legacy alive by being loving, caring on the spirit of advocacy in a decent manner,” said Ira Acree, Pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church.
Senator Dick Durbin received cheers when he mentioned that during his trip to the western suburbs this morning, he saw lots of drivers changing lanes without signaling, none of them stopped by police. He said Bland had "An amazing life cut way too short." and he promised to pursue a federal investigation into her death.
Reverend James Miller urged Bland's sympathizers to flood the justice department online with enough messages to shut down its website. He added, “We're here to tell the world one thing. Sandy was ours. And we take care of our own."
A printed program referred supporters to hashtag #sandyspeaks. Afterward, mourners said it was a moving experience.
“She's one of many mothers that lost their children. And she's been strong and she's given a message for everyone to do the right thing and to respect the wishes of the family. And to go about justice in the right manner,” said mourner Veronica Smith.
“For me, I feel like the death of Sandra Bland is a turning point in this country. I hope people across the United States will wake up, especially white people, and understand that something needs to change,” said mourner Marjaan Sirdar.
One message was conveyed by almost everyone who spoke at the service. Sandy Bland is being laid to rest, but Sandy still speaks.