The day after burying her daughter, Sandra Bland, in a Willow Springs cemetery, Geneva Reed-Veal was in the only place she knew to be — her West Side church. Reed-Veal is a minister at The Word Works church, 4118 W. Division St., in Humboldt Park.
A member of Wednesday Journal’s West Side Business Network and managing broker at an East Garfield Park realty firm, Reed-Veal had been scheduled to volunteer at an Oak Park community fest in June. But she was due to appear at a church-based outing around the same time. The community outing would have to wait. Her church came first.
On Sun. July 26, as the still-grieving, but battle-ready, mother stood in the front-row — at one moment she was stretching her hands in praise; at another motioning ecstatically to her pastor, Bishop Jeffrey Davis, in righteous agreement; at another comforting a close friend, whose father is gravely ill, seated next to her — it wasn’t hard to understand why.
“Yesterday was the service, but life is now,” Davis said. “I tried to get her to just stay home, but she said, ‘No Bishop, I’m coming to church. I’m not listening to you. I’m coming to church.’ She’s here and she knows we’re praying for her.'”
But the West Side church has done far more than that. At Bland’s funeral last Saturday, Davis announced that the church would establish a $1,000 continuing education scholarship in her name. It would be called the Sandy Speaks Scholarship, Davis said. The announcement prompted Reed-Veal to jump out of her seat and start dancing in the aisle of the DuPage AME Church in Lisle, just steps away from her daughter’s white casket.
The scholarship was both a gesture of support for Reed-Veal’s desire to keep her daughter’s voice and name alive (“If you want to keep Sandy’s memory alive — that road they stopped her on? Get them to change it to Sandy Bland Way,” she told those at the funeral), and an extension of what Davis believes is one of his church’s primary missions.
“Our job as a church is to be a family, a community, of believers that support each other in faith and in life,” said Davis, before addressing Reed-Veal’s friend. She had taken off work during the week to travel back and forth to the hospital. That cost money, Davis said.
“I told my wife that, not from the church but from us — we’re going to fill your tank up and make sure you’ve got money to eat with this week,” he said.
Davis also reassured Reed-Veal that the church would stand behind her struggle to resolve her daughter’s death.
“When the lights, camera, action are gone, they’re going to need us,” Davis said. “We’re going to put pressure in the spirit on the powers that be that nothing be hid […] God knows how to expose a thing.”