BLACK VOICES
04/28/2016 05:03 pm ET

Sandra Bland's Mother Gives Emotional Speech Urging Activists To 'Step Up'

"When the cameras and lights are gone, our babies are dead. So I’m going to ask you here today to wake up."

Sandra Bland's mother gave an emotional speech on Thursday and told activists to "wake up, get up, step up, or shut up."

Bland was arrested after a traffic stop in Texas last year and found dead in her jail cell three days later. Officials ruled her death a suicide, but her family has said they don't believe Bland would have killed herself.

While Bland's case drew national attention, her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, pointed out that many could not name the other women who died in jail last July, the month Bland was arrested.

"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," she said during a speech at the Library of Congress at a symposium convened by the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. The recently-formed caucus seeks to "eliminate significant barriers and disparities experienced by black women.” 

"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."

Brian Encinia, the trooper who arrested Bland was fired in January after being charged with perjury for allegedly lying about his interaction with Bland. A grand jury declined to indict any jailers in connection with her death.

A panel convened after Bland's death recommended an overhaul of the jail earlier this month.

"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," she said.

Reed-Veal has endorsed Democratic presidential front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and has traveled with her on the campaign trail.

"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 full speech above.

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