By Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
9.17.16: National – (Politics): Two gospel songs come to mind when I hear Ms. Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Ms. Sandra Bland – the 28 year-old activist and vlogger who was found dead in her jail cell a few days after being arrested during a controversial traffic stop last year outside of Houston, Texas – speak about the advocacy that ensued after the lost of her daughter.
The first is a tune by Ms. Dottie People entitled ‘Closet Religion,’ where the lyrics drive home the idea that the love of God can’t be stored away behind a door but rather expressed loudly wherever you find yourself. The other hymn preaches that “this joy I have, the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away.”
Ms. Reed-Veal, who I met in April of this year during a private meeting in Philadelphia with former U.S Attorney General Mr. Eric Holder and a few of the Mothers of the Movement, speaks with a tone reminiscent of an older charismatic preacher who’s turn-up isn’t dependent on who says amen from the pews. Indeed, Ms. Reed-Veal is her own biggest cheerleader though it’s also evident that she leans not to her own understanding but in all her dealings trust in a higher power.
For what she’s been through, it’d be understandable if her voice was monotone, or even tainted with melancholy. However, that’s not the case at all; Ms. Reed-Veal’s voice is alive and joyful, yet stern, but in way that’s exhibiting tough love not condemnation.
That voice on Friday evening – a day after news reports flourished on the television and internet about the Bland family settling their wrongful death lawsuit against Waller County, Texas, for $1.9 million – appeared unexpectedly during my weekly news segment on 900am-WURD, a black talk radio station headquartered in Philadelphia but whose content is consumed around the world via 900amWURD.com and a smartphone app. Ms. Reed-Veal’s presence on air during ‘Urban Insights’ with Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler was a breaking news story regarding a strong black woman who, though tangled up in a system that’s broke, refuses to be broken.
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The settlement was more than just about money. It also included major changes at the Waller County jail, like having on staff 24 hours a day an emergency medical tech or nurse. Also a Waller County judge, according to Ms. Reed-Veal, is willing to “champion and go along with any legislation that would be involving changes in the jail,” and the reforms will be done in the name of Sandra Bland.
A big deal this news is, but Ms. Reed-Veal doesn’t credit herself for doing anything more than just showing up and allowing God to use her to carry out a monumental task.
“God is able,” Ms. Reed-Veal, who this weekend is on the road with Mrs. Hillary Clinton, remarked.
On my mind was how Ms. Bland’s death could be ruled a suicide yet the county settled a lawsuit for wrongful death. So I asked that question.
“I haven’t had that conversation,” said Ms. Reed-Veal, though she noted that she doesn’t care much if the cause of death is changed because the truth is known to her already: Sandra Bland didn’t commit suicide.
Ms. Reed-Veal, who I imagine succumbs to grief privately, maintains a public image of strength and determination. Her fight, despite the settlement, continues, as will the fight on behalf of mothers like herself. From the Westside of Chicago, what gives Ms. Reed-Veal an ounce of serenity is her belief that we’re all, as humans, merely temporary gifts to Earth from God, and at some point, after fulfilling our mission, our return to glory will be required.
“I’m thankful he allowed me to have her on loan.”
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