Water for Flint: The Thirst is Real
Flint, Michigan is a small de-industrialized town in the heart of the American Midwest.
According to foxnews.com the racial makeup of Flint, Michigan is 57% black, 37% white and 6% other. Once a capital city for industry, Flint is now an economic ghost town with at least 40% of its 99,000 population living below the poverty line. While the fact that more and more Americans around the country are living below middle class status is nothing new, the eyes of this country are finally on Flint, Michigan and the people of Flint are calling for the resignation of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Two years ago, under then mayor Dayne Walling, people in Flint began to complain about the quality, color and taste of the city’s drinking water after the state had switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River. The people’s complaints and concerns were brushed aside and ignored in favor of Walling’s insistence that it was “a quality, safe product”. Governor Snyder, in February 2015, announced $2 million in state funding to help improve Flint’s water system and Mayor Dayne Walling appoints 40 city officials, business owners and community organizers to a newly formed water advisory committee. In March 2015, The city of Flint had dedicated over 2 million dollars to improve the water supply, and city officials still insisted that the water was safe. However, in September 2015, researchers from Virginia Tech released findings of lead in blood levels of Flint residents over the past two years. Terrifyingly enough, that includes men women and children.
With national news organizes just now focusing a light on the problem, a state of emergency has been declared in Flint, Michigan. For two years, the state of Michigan has been poisoning the people of Flint. The water in the city is undrinkable, you certainly can’t bathe in it and many of the effected residents are children. Lead is an irreversible neurotoxin. Lead poisoning in children has life altering effects. For two years now, the people and children of Flint have been poisoned by their local water supply. Frustrating, infuriating, saddening and true.
On January 16, 2016, President Obama signs emergency declaration, orders FEMA and DHS to coordinate on federal aid for Flint. People are receiving test kits, filters and bottled water but this is just a band aid for a very deep two-year old wound. Where is the accountability for our elected officials from the Federal government on down especially with a presidential election year coming up where Flint is concerned? There is too much finger pointing and not enough action. So what can regular people like you or I do?
On January 24, 2016, I made a plan to donate water to the city of Flint. Before that, I had many options and wasn’t sure where to go. I thought about calling the local Red Cross or Salvation Army. I thought about it. But then I went a different route. While the Republican and Democratic presidential runners use this issue to garner more potential speed in their political race, and celebrities donate water at random to increase their public relations cred, I discovered a local business man in my home town of North Chicago by the name of David Givens, Jr., age 29, and father of seven, David has family and friends in Flint who are directly affected by this man made water contamination crisis. So, I put my money up and bought three cases of water to Tony’s Barber Shop, 1506 Sheridan Road in North Chicago, where he works by day. So far, people have donated over 150 cases of water in less than 72 hours since January 24th. David Givens, Jr plans to deliver them by hand to the people of Flint, Michigan. When I found this out, I was very moved to support this man and learn why it was so important to him to help.
JNHARRIS: David you are giving back in an extremely important way. How does this water crisis effect you personally?
DAVID GIVENS, JR: I have a lot of family in Flint. And when I heard about the severity of the situation, I thought of them and what they could be going through. And it’s not just them, it’s what they all could be going through. I just figured what could I do on my end to help out.
JNHARRIS: Do you think if Flint where a more affluent community this would be happening?
DAVID GIVENS, JR.: I would be lying if I said that I didn’t believe that. Because of the poverty level out there, (people) they aren’t thought about. They are shunned, put to the side. They aren’t thought about. Just look at the situation and how it happened. Two years? And it comes down to this? They knew what this could lead to. Especially engineers, they know their profession and they knew that this was coming. So, I think this was just pure neglect. They didn’t care or they didn’t think to act upon it because of the statistics of the area.
JNHARRIS: Now that there is a national eye on this crisis after two years, what can people like you or me do? DAVID GIVENS, JR: WE can definitely encourage the people to donate water. Water isn’t expensive in the stores. It is only $2.00 for a 24 pack or case of water. And that’s nothing, we spend $10.00-$20.00 dollars on junk food. Or personal habits or whatever the case maybe. So, you know we can make that sacrifice, because they are sacrificing a lot right now. It’s more than just them being out of water; their lives are being affected by this. Their health is being affected by this. And then, just their mental state is just being affected by this because there are people there who may have just moved to Flint and there are lifelong residents that have been in Flint who have never experienced anything like this at all. So, if I can put up a Facebook post and encourage somebody to by a few cases of water—I look at like this, one case could help at least one family. It’s just that simple. And if that is the least that I can do, I’ll do it.
JNHARRIS: You plan to deliver this water hand to hand yourself. Where in Flint do you plan to do this?
DAVID GIVENS, JR: My Uncle has a church out there. His church is called Prayer Gardens, located at 3918 Fleming Rd, Flint, Michigan 48504 and they have been actually going door to door giving the citizens of the community water.
JNHARRIS: I think it’s important that people know of your endeavors and that people who are directly affected by this crisis will directly receive the help they need.
DAVID GIVENS, JR: Right. You know we are here in another state and we are just hearing about the situation. So, you know, that’s another reason why I want to take it out there so I could see firsthand. Everyone may not have the means of transportation to get to the water. Whether the reasons be poor health, could be veterans out there, the elderly—transportation may be bad. The public transportation system maybe bad. And you never know how far someone may have to travel to get the water. So, if I can gather some people from my area and we can go out there and help-you know, my uncle and my cousins are already out there helping out. And not just my family, but the community as a whole has been coming together. And it’s one thing to just encourage people to donate and just drop it off, I don’t want to just drop it off. I want to go out there and actually physically take cases door to door. In no way, shape or form, do I want to put myself in the spotlight for accolades or applause. This is a serious need. This is a time to put pride aside. Whether we be Black, White, Hispanic or whatever the case maybe. Color has nothing to do with anything, we all need water to live. And it’s not just the Blacks that are suffering from this in Flint, everyone is.
Indeed, this is not a simple issue of black versus white. Not anymore. This is a human issue. The human body can go more than 3 weeks without food under harsh conditions. Without water, the human body can only last 3 days (m.livescience.com). We can continue to wait for the powers that be to hold themselves accountable and pool our tax dollars together to do something, which may take years, or we can act now. A single case of water is not that expensive. If you want to give, if you are moved to give, find out where they are collecting donations near you. It takes a little effort, a little time and costs very little money.
Prayer Garden Church is located at 3918 Fleming Rd, Flint, Michigan 48504. Their mailing address is PO BOX 310288 Flint, MI, 48531-0288.
This editorial was originally published in Entrepreneurs of Color Magazine.