“I don’t come here playing games with you all,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old black woman who died in a Texas jail cell last summer. “I don’t come to sit and be a part of a caucus where we talk and do nothing,” she continued.
Reed-Veal was speaking at the Library of Congress, part of the first symposium of the newly formed Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. "Am I angry? Absolutely," said the mother, who said she does not believe her daughter committed suicide. Her testimony instigated tears and loud sighs in an audience filled with black women. The officer who arrested Bland, Brian Encinia, was fired.
Below is the full transcript of Veal’s short but emotionally powerful speech.
I want to say to all of you who sit here today, thank you. Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to be here today. Sometimes it’s rough. I don’t have a big long statement to read. What I’m going to say to you is that I’m here representing the mothers who are not heard, I am here representing the mothers who have lost children as we go on about our daily lives. When the cameras and lights are gone, our babies are dead. So I'm going to ask you here today to wake up. Wake up. By a show of hands, can any of you tell me the other six women who died in jail in July 2015 along with Sandra Bland? That is a problem. You all are among the walking dead, and I am so glad that I have come out from among you. I heard about Trayvon, I heard about all the shootings, and it did not bother me until it hit my daughter. I was walking dead just like you until Sandra Bland died in a jail cell in Texas.
Let’s get something straight. I as a mother do not believe she committed suicide. I will say that until it’s proven. But if you want me to believe that my daughter—that I sent down there sitting up, driving her own vehicle—would be sent home in a capsule in the bottom of a plane with luggage on top of her, that I’m going to shut up? I will not. I will not. I will continue to speak for every mother paralyzed because of the loss of their child. Six, and Google them. I’m looking at your phones. Take two minutes and Google the other six that died in jail. We’re not talking about that year, we’re talking about the month of July. 18-50 [years old]. Kindra Chapman allegedly stole a cell phone; 20 hours later she hung herself. Alexis McGovern downstairs in the infirmary dead, her family upstairs paying the bond. Nobody has spoken these names. And as I go around the country speaking, the fact that no pen is raised in a room, where six other women, aside from my daughter, have died. And nobody knows their names. That’s a problem.
The tears are real, the pain is real, the problem is real. So, I don’t come here playing games with you all. I don’t come to sit and be a part of a caucus where we talk and do nothing. You, you, you, you don’t know my pain. God forbid you go up to another grieving mother and say you know how she feels, that is a lie. Unless you have lost a child. Am I angry? Absolutely. I’m not angry enough to create a riot where I burn things down, but I will create a riot, I will set off so that people will understand that this is real. Movements move. Activists activate. We have got to stop talking and move. So I leave you with this: it is time to wake up, get up, step up, or shut up.
Watch the speech below:
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.