Prairie View's 'Freedom Park' will send anti-racist message

Erica Simon Image
Friday, May 20, 2022
Prairie View's 'Freedom Park' will send anti-racist message
The trauma of racist violence is being acknowledged in a big way as Prairie View broke ground on a new "Freedom Park," in Sandra Bland's honor.

PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas (KTRK) -- Since Sandra Bland's death in 2015, Prairie View has had somewhat of a cloud over it. Yes, it's home to one of the best HBCUs in the country and great agriculture, but millions started to associate the city with Bland's death.

Now, a new historical marker represents a step forward.

When Waller County Commissioner Kendric Jones first took office on Prairie View City Council a few years ago, his mom made him promise to never lie to the people.

He and his colleagues promised Bland's family that they would permanently honor the Prairie View A&M University alumna, whose name became famous when her stop by a DPS trooper went viral, and was found dead in the Waller County jail days later. That promise was fulfilled this week when Bland's family traveled from Illinois to see the dedication of the maker.

"Even though we have so much further to go, we're making sure we finish the part where at least wanted to acknowledge them. We're doing the groundbreaking, planting of a tree and also the historical land marker," Commissioner Jones said.

The marker sits at the edge of soon-to-be Freedom Park, which is a project years in the making.

"This park will be a space where people can come and just reflect. And let things go. The goal is to continue to develop the park. Put some benches where you can come and have reflection time," former Prairie View Mayor Brian Rowland explained.

Like many parts of the south, Waller County has had its fair share of racism, but people like 93-year-old Bernice Webster are optimistic about the park.

"It's my hope that it will unify the citizens of Prairie View. "We need more positive things," she said.

No one likes to dwell on the tragedy that rocked this city, but officials agree they can't run from it. They're committed to using it as a springboard for change.

"Unless you acknowledge what happened, then you can't go forward or you're subject to repeat those situations and we weren't going to let that happen," former Prairie View Mayor David Allen said.

Officials hope to have the construction of Freedom Park up and going within a year. It's located on Sandra Bland Memorial Parkway, just feet away from where Bland was pulled over.

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