On the 49th day of being in prayerful solidarity with Sandra Bland, I sat in the corner of a coffee shop at the close of one more day in front of the Waller County Jail. I fielded phone calls and messages about an angry video released by a white supremacist. Concern for our safety was not a new thing, nor was the constant responsibility to redirect attention and focus back to the point of our solidarity vigil: Sandra Bland.
To my right I saw a friend enter, make her order, and sit down across from me. At the end of a long day, my eyes welled with tears, and as they did it triggered a memory of the last time I had sat with her as my eyes welled with tears. Suddenly it all came rushing back. “You were there,” I said to her, “You were there on the first day.” She nodded, “Yes, I was there.”
Then all those details whose import I did not realize in the moment came flooding back. I remembered being awakened that Wednesday with messages from my friend Jeremyah who was concerned, along with all of his Prairie View alumni friends, about the news that a friend of theirs had died in jail. I remembered the first messages I got in the morning, and the texts in the afternoon. I remembered the first time the words #WhatHappenedToSandraBland were texted to me that afternoon. I remembered my friend Kathy sitting down across from me shortly after.
I remembered that Kathy and I were supposed to meet about something important that first day, but I do not know what it was. All I remember is that I asked her if we could sit outside, and then she sat across from me in silence as I read an article entitled, “Family of Sandra Bland Questioning Her Death in a Texas Jail.” Then more silence followed, of a duration that only a true friend could endure, as waves of grief rolled over me. We must have sat for an hour before we finally began to speak.
Now, on Day 49, I sit across from her and it feels for a minute as if no time has passed. “What do you remember from that day?” I ask her, “Was I angry? Was I sad?”
“You were so sad,” she replies, “it was the last straw.”
“It was,” I say, “it was the last straw.” It was the last straw. There were too many women in my life that could have been Sandra Bland. There were too many bold, unapologetic, brilliant, black women in my life who I knew did not live in the same America as me. There were too many women in my life who had more to fear than a ticket when they saw flashing lights.
Now, once again, on Day 49, Kathy sat across from me in our familiar semi-silence as we reflected on it all. Eventually, we parted ways with hugs and prayers.
Shortly after, as I contemplated the arrival of Day 50, I get a text message from her that took my breath away:
She was right on all counts. When I left her side, I went to Wednesday evening Bible Study, grieving and seeking what to do. At the end of Bible Study, knowing I had been wrestling all day with what to do, Rhys suggested we go to the Jail and honor Sandra Bland in the place where she had died. We met up with our friend Nina and we did just that.
We were grief stricken. We were called. We knew what we were getting ourselves into; not perhaps the specifics, or the extent, but we knew it would be hard, and we knew it would be necessary.
There are two things I have always said since Day 1. First, my problem with the situation starts the moment she is pulled over. Second, I believe Sandra Bland would do this for us.
We were grieving. We were called. We were woke.
We are grieving. We are called. We are woke.
Wake up America.