We’re closing in on two years since Flint, Michigan switched to the Flint River as it’s drinking source, contaminating residents’ water. In these two years, we’ve had President Obama drink the filtered water on national TV, urging everyone over age six to do the same and the city of Flint has made marginal headway but residents continue to struggle with little access to safe, potable water.
As a result people and organizations from all over the nation have raised funds and donated filters and other necessities, like bottled water and baby formula. However, as national discourse shifts to other issues, Flint has taken a back seat and donations have reduced.
That’s part of the reason a number of local organizations and activists teamed up to take more things to Flint this weekend.
“It’s like people kind of forgot about Flint,” said Paloma Hernández, who with her partner Frederick Douglass, have teamed up with organizers.
“[It was] empty. A bunch of dead space,” said Kristen Noel, one of Flower City Noire Collective’s founders. She went last year to Flint and said the city was pretty bad off. “Like, no people there. No stores there. It’s literally nothing. Like you’re in a third-world country but you’re still in America,”
“It’s an actual food desert,” added Tonya Noel, the other founder. “There are no grocery stores within city limits.” She said she and a small team are traveling to the city to bring resources and supplies. It’s a repeat trip from last year they made around the start of March.
However, they’re also going to do research and collect data. After seeing the city’s and low literacy rate, they’re hoping to see a difference in the city now that it’s been a year. Has literacy increased since then? Are homes looking better, are they actually livable?
“We went March 3-5,2016 when the presidential debates were being held and there was a lot of media attention on Flint,” Noel states on their donations page. “However, the attention was short lived and just months after being there the water had dried up. Literally, the donations of water slowed and the overwhelming need for drinkable, useable water never has diminished.”
She added that many of Flint’s issues didn’t suddenly arise when the water crisis did; Flint’s residents have seen disproportionate rates of poverty, joblessness and much more for many years. This is why, Noel explained, work in Flint has to be about more than water.
“I think a lot of people think ‘Oh Flint was just booming before this happened’ but it wasn’t like that,” explained Pamela Jones, an activist originally from Flint. “We’ve struggled with these issues a long time and that’s why it seemed OK to switch to the river as a drinking source, even if temporary. We were a city already forgotten and struggling.”
Donations are live through YouCaring through the weekend though they will only be taking donated supplies until Friday morning. So far they’ve only raised $345 and their goal is $5,000. Since the group is willing to spend out of pocket they’ll use funds gained to reimburse travel costs. To learn more, visit the event’s Facebook page.