Sandra Bland’s death in the Waller County jail has raised questions that might never be answered. But it has also led to her name becoming a hashtag, the bail system in Texas facing a potential overhaul, and a group of demonstrators spending their summer in the dwindling shade outside of the Waller County Sheriff’s Department as they sought answers. And as of this week, it’s also sparked a name change for the street where she was pulled over. Prairie View City Council voted to rename University Drive, the road that leads to the Prairie View A&M campus where Bland had just been hired, Sandy Bland Parkway.
The change comes with the support of some significant Texas politicians. Longtime state Senator Rodney Ellis, who told Texas Monthly earlier this month that Bland’s death has fostered the most extreme distrust between citizens and police than he’s ever seen, wrote a letter in support of the new name, also urging the development of a Sandra Bland Memorial Park.
— Rodney Ellis (@RodneyEllis) August 25, 2015
U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee also attended the Prairie View City Council meeting to urge her support and challenge Bland’s hometown of Chicago to name a street after the young woman.
Sheila Jackson Lee stopped by as well to voice support. Here she is hugging Bland's mother. pic.twitter.com/zplgIWlp3E
— Leah Binkovitz (@leahbink) August 26, 2015
Since Bland’s death, the calls to activism have involved hashtags like #SandraBland and #BlackLivesMatter. But it’s also popularized #SayHerName—an explicit call for those involved in activism around police violence and racial justice to remember not just the names of the black men and boys who’ve died in encounters with police, but to also consider the girls and women. Bland’s name was, in some ways, the flashpoint for the #SayHerName campaign—presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders adopted it (even if he seemed to miss the precise point), and in the weeks following her death it’s become a part of the message of demonstrators and organizers when discussing race and police in America.
All of which makes the creation of a Sandy Bland Parkway especially notable. If part of the discussion of Bland’s death centers around the idea that these things are too easily brushed aside—especially in a 24-hour news cycle—and that there’s meaning in merely saying and remembering victims’ names, then Sandy Bland Parkway is significant. At the very least, it demonstrates that countless people—from Prairie View students marching in protest to people at gas stations offering directions—will have to say her name.