Days after saying he believes black lives matter at the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, it was revealed presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may have been inspired with his answer after a chance meeting with the mother of one of the people who have become a symbol of the movement: the late Sandra Bland.
Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, sat down to eat at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station station with Pastor Hannah Bonner last week when the pair spotted Sanders walking through the lobby. They asked the senator if he wanted to sit down and talk, and he did. Bonner described the encounter in a blog post she published this week.
"What happened to your daughter is inexcusable," Sanders told Reed-Veal, according to Bonner. "We are broken, and this has exposed us." Bonner wrote the senator then continued by promising that he would not give up in the pursuit of justice.
Days later at the debate, Sanders followed up on his promise when a member of the public asked the candidates if black lives matter. "The reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and then three days later she can end up dead in jail," Sanders said.
#SayHerName is the hashtag that started on Twitter earlier this year in response to the outsize attention given to black men who are victims of police brutality. Black women, activists argue, are also at risk. "Although black women are routinely killed, raped and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality," Kimberlé Crenshaw, director of Columbia Law School's Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies and co-author of a report on black women and police brutality, wrote in a statement in July.
In Bland's case, Sanders did more than #SayHerName. He showed that some behind-the-scenes politicking acn actually be a good thing, especially when it involves constituents whose stories are seldom told.