The Prairie View City Council voted to rename University Drive as Sandy Bland Parkway. The street leads to Prairie View A&M University, which is Bland’s alma mater. She was set to begin a job there when she was arrested during a traffic stop on July 10. Officials say Bland hung herself in her cell at the Waller County Jail just three days later. Her apparent suicide was the latest in a string of deaths of African-Americans while interacting with law enforcement.
Activist Denise Mattox says the street will honor Bland’s memory in a community that’s been shocked by her death.
“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,” Mattox says.
Dozens of demonstrators and students showed their support for the measure by marching more than one mile from the campus to Prairie View City Hall.
Among them was Prairie View A&M University graduate Michael Moore. He drove from Pearland to take part in the event. Moore says Bland’s death should be honored as a part of the city’s history.
“There’s a slave owner that has a street named after him,” Moore says. “Ronald Reagan, there’s a street named after him, so why not Sandra Bland? She graduated from Prairie View, wanted to come back and give back, so I think that she deserves it.”
Bland’s arrest during a routine traffic stop made national headlines. Dashcam footage shows the interaction quickly escalated, and she can be heard complaining that she’s in pain as she’s put in handcuffs. The state trooper who arrested Bland has since been removed from street duty. Moore thinks it’s good for the community to have a lasting reminder of what happened.
“When police officers stop any of our students at Prairie View, they’ll always be able to write that name, Sandra Bland, just to remind them, their consciousness, that, ‘hey, I can’t treat this person bad,’ or do any unlawful things to the students,” he says.
City hall was full to capacity during the council meeting. Dozens of activists waited at the door after the march to learn the results of the vote.
Council members say the name change is expected to go into effect sometime before the university’s homecoming in October. They also approved a proposal to build a park named after Bland.