Sandra Bland had a promising future ahead of her. The 28-year-old was about to start a new job, and launch a website with her friend, Chenai Okammor. But in July, police pulled her over for changing lanes without signaling, an altercation ensured, and she was taken to jail. She was found dead, hanging in her cell, three days later.
Bland's death prompted a social media firestorm, with activists demanding the world #SayHerName and insisting that authorities investigate the circumstances around her death. But Bland wasn't just another statistic: She was a person, someone who had strong opinions and grand ambitions. And people are making sure the world doesn't forget that.
As a special preview of her upcoming newsletter, Lenny, Lena Dunham spoke with Okammor about her and Bland's site, Woman4Woman, which launched Monday. "We wanted to restore Sandra to the fullness of her life," editor Doreen St. Félix wrote.
"What became clear to me as I met more with Sandra was that she was finding her own voice," Okammor said. "She had such a commitment to having women tell their own stories and she helped them talk about things they hadn't talked about before."
Bland was an activist against police brutality, and Dunham and Okammor discussed how personal and painful her arrest must have been. And when people criticized her or the response to her death, they argue that the critics miss the point:
LD: What does it make you feel like when you hear the press being critical of Sandra? There's a lot of ignorance about the fact that, whether its suicide or someone has been killed, it's still murder because they've had their humanity taken away from them. CO: Oh my goodness. Lena, Lena, Lena. You hit it with that line. If people can say all the things that they're saying and sleep with themselves at night, then we've got a bigger problem than we realize. Because if it were their child, their relative, their sister, their friend, their colleague or whatever, they would never have it looked at it that way. However, it shows more the amount of work we still need to do. And you know it's always the women who hold up the country in times of war. It's the women who hold up anything or everything. That's why we're doing this.