5 Years Without Clean Water

Apr 24, 2019 | Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

Flint’s Fight for Environmental Justice

LaTricea D. Adams, MAT, EdS

Today, April 24, 2019 marks the 5th year Flint, Michigan has been without clean water. The nation watched in horror in 2014 as one of the most shameful acts of environmental racism and genocide was unveiled under the leadership of former Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder (R). It was a moment best described as an oxymoron–both shocking yet so predictable…because let’s keep it real–when has America EVER cared about poor, majority black cities, right?

This is racism. What happened in Flint is first and foremost racism. And second, its classism. Poor blacks and poor whites is why this happened in Flint.

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden
Interim Director, Division of Public Health
Michigan State University

Even though the Flint water crisis began in 2014, after the drinking water source for the city was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River, a state of emergency wasn’t declared until January 2016–nearly 2 years after the switch. What’s among one of the cruelest and nastiest things about this whole mess is the rationale for why this all came to pass. Good ol’ boy Rick Snyder put on his white privileged thinking cap and decided to switch to a less costly source with the Flint River (former dumping ground with all sorts of toxic wastes and residue from General Motors). Due to inadequate water treatment, lead leached from water pipes into Flint’s public drinking water, exposing over 100,000 residents to elevated lead levels. After the federal state of emergency was declared, Flint residents were provided guidance to use only bottled or filtered water for both drinking and potable water.

Good ol’ boy Rick Snyder put on his white privileged thinking cap and decided to switch to a less costly source with the Flint River.

But Snyder wasn’t the only colonizer to blame–there had been a long-standing history of environmental racism that plagued the city of Flint. Flint (also known as “Vehicle City”) was LIT during the 1950’s and 1960’s with the heightened prosperity of General Motors. However, as the industry began to decline beginning in the late 1970’s, the once thriving city took a turn. Much like post emancipation, when white slave-owners could not longer treat black people like chattel (well kinda) and used for labor-intensive purposes, they were just tossed away. The same lack of humanity still haunts us today.

(From Left to Right) Krystina White, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, LaTricea D. Adams, Founder CEO & President and Michelle Mabson, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer

But we’re African though, remember? We come from a legacy of resiliency! If we (we meaning the black and latinx family) learned nothing else from the Flint Water Crisis, we learned that we have got to become better educated about the environmental injustices that impact our communities the most. We should be just as pissed about environmental racism as we are with police brutality and the entire catalog of assault against black and brown bodies.

On February 10, 2016, the first and only African American & Latino environmental justice and civil rights organization focused on the eradication of lead was founded by one of the DOPEST #BlackGirlMagic trios who each hold degrees from HBCU’s (Where all my “Real HU” and Tennessee State University– The Aristocrat of Bands alums at?!?!?!?). While we celebrate living black history with the establishment of this grassroots movement, we recognize that while we are far behind and have a long road to travel, we are unbossed and unapologetically equipped to take on the challenge.

(From Left to Right: [Pic 1] Jaden Smith, First Lady Catrina Tillman, First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, Isaac Tillman & Michelle Mabson, BM4F Chief Advocacy Officer)
[Pic 2] Galen Miller, Founder of Pack Your Back, Mari Copeny AKA “Little Miss Flint, Jason Barnes, Krys White, LaTricea D. Adams and Michelle Mabson]

Along this journey to create a #LeadFreeUSA, we have established lifelong members of our tribe: Mari Copeny (AKA “Little Miss Flint”) the 11 year old activist who is a force all by herself; Pastor Ezra & Catrina Tillman from First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, Jaden Smith along with his foundation 501CTHREE & company JUST goods, Ebonie Gipson, Founder of I’m Building Something, LLC, the newly re-activated affiliate chapter of the Flint Urban League…let’s just say the tribe is hella lit!

Don’t get it twisted…Flint is a city grounded in faith, courage and wisdom **cues India Arie**. Chile, Flint is the birthplace of the one and only Claressa Shields– we are MORE than ready to dismantle white supremacy, systemic oppression and environmental racism LIKE A BOSS!


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