During a chance encounter at a restaurant last week, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders met Sandra Bland’s mother and family members. Instead of using the private moment as a political photo op, Sen. Sanders promised to continue saying her daughter’s name in the pursuit of justice. At the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday, Sanders kept his promise to say her name.
In her blog, Rev. Hannah Bonner recalled eating with Sandra Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, in a Thai restaurant at Union Station in Washington last week when they noticed Sanders sitting at another table. After Bonner asked the presidential candidate if he would like to meet Bland’s mother, Sanders replied, “Yes, please.”
Bonner wrote, “You do not often get to witness moments like that. Moments when agendas are laid aside and people who might not otherwise ever have the chance to connect without cameras watching can simply honor one another’s pain and humanity.”
While sitting down with members of Bland’s family, Sanders told Reed-Veal, “What happened to your daughter is inexcusable. We are broken, and this has exposed us.”
After speaking with Bland’s mother, Sanders promised to continue saying her name in the pursuit of justice. During this summer, Sanders released a statement saying, “This video of the arrest of Sandra Bland shows totally outrageous police behavior. No one should be yanked from her car, thrown to the ground, assaulted and arrested for a minor traffic stop. The result is that three days later she is dead in her jail cell. This video highlights once again why we need real police reform. People should not die for a minor traffic infraction. This type of police abuse has become an all-too-common occurrence for people of color and it must stop.”
Five days after meeting Bonner and Reed-Veal, Sanders upheld his promise to Bland’s mother when asked if black lives matter or all lives matter during the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday. Sanders answered, “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’s going to end up dead in jail.”
According to Google, searches for “Sandra Bland” skyrocketed after the debate, while #SayHerName continues trending on Twitter.
“We asked Senator Sanders if we could take a picture with him and he consented,” Bonner recalled. “He did not impose upon Ms. Geneva to ask for a picture of his own. He did not use the moment as an opportunity to promote his campaign. He took no record, he made no statement. He did not try to turn it into a publicity stunt. He simply made space for a sacred moment, and then let it pass without trying to gain anything from it.”
“For that I respect him. For that, I am grateful. That choice may not have made him a very good politician, but it made him a better man.”