BALTIMORE, Maryland (January 30, 2016) — Sharon Cooper spoke to a packed house at Red Emma’s on Saturday evening about her sister Sandra Bland, who died in police custody last July. The event “Be a Voice, Not an Echo” was sponsored by UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and Taharka Brothers Ice Cream.
The importance of everyday citizens controlling and reporting their own narratives was the major theme of the evening, as the majority of questions and answers pointed to the problem of misinformation in mainstream media. Ms. Cooper told of how reporters distorted facts about her sister, often without speaking to the family. Audience comments highlighted the glaring negativity in news stories about Black individuals and referenced the centuries-old false narrative of black criminality found in media and entertainment.
Countering the falsifications surrounding her sister’s story, Ms. Cooper presented a video made for the Sandra Bland Diversity Institute (by LeVern Danley III) that included some of Sandra Bland’s own words and images from her Sandy Speaks video series.
“We are expecting that if we are told something and if we are fed something, we are to take it as fact; and that is just not true,” said Ms. Cooper. She went on to compare mainstream media’s misrepresentations of her sister to the misleading coverage of Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. “Control the narrative,” Ms. Cooper said, “There is nobody who can speak up for you and speak in your place.”