“I just don’t want this to happen to others. My dad says special education services has drastically increased in the Elementary school, and says it’s believed to be an effect of the lead they’ve drank.” --Kevelin B. Jones, III
At this moment, there is a 12-year old boy from Flint, Michigan preparing for his starring role in the first National Tour of The Bodyguard The Musical. This tour stop has him and his castmates performing at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, Florida. As the tour is gearing up for its final curtain call on April 15th, many of performers are focused on home—Especially young Kevelin.
In 2014, officials from Kevelin’s hometown of Flint made the decision to switch the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save some money. As you continue to read this post, I want you to remember that line…”to save some money” (don’t worry, I’ll keep reminding you). In a study performed by Virginia Tech, the Flint River is 19 times more corrosive than the city’s original water source. Either the decision-makers were ignorant of this fact, or they knew and just didn’t care.
Food for Thought: Based on 2016 U.S. Census Bureau data, Flint’s population of 65,000 had the highest poverty rate in the country of any city; 45% of Flint residents lived below the national poverty line—58% were minors (the national average at the time was 18% childhood poverty).
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder made an announcement stating that Flint’s water quality is “well within the standards”. The people of this wonderful city do not trust the water, nor their government, and rightfully so. Since this disaster, there have been 15 current and former government officials have been charged with 51 criminal charges—some face charges to include involuntary manslaughter due to the 12 deaths associated with the Legionnaire’s Outbreak linked to the tainted water.
Remember that line I mentioned about saving money? Well, the State of Michigan along with a federal aid package of $450 million was introduced to mitigate as many issues as possible with this crisis. A major part of the $450 million package was the free bottled water program, which has ended due to Gov. Snyder’s previously mentioned statement. The $450 million isn’t the end of this mess. There are major implications to Flint’s educational, environmental, political, economic, health and welfare, medical, and social components. The cost of this calamitous event is too great to fathom—notwithstanding the loss of life that has already been experienced. *Note: The Nestle corporation has been approved by Osceola Township to increase water output to 400 gallons a minute from public water sources. Nestle bottles and sells their water to create over $1 billion in revenue. More than 80,000 people opposed this proposal with 75 people in favor. Another case of big corporations winning, while the poor continue to experience their existence as 2nd-Class citizens.
With this, hope is not lost. Kevelin remains on the road performing for eager and excited crowds accompanied by his mother, Tanisha. Back home in Flint, Kevelin’s father, Dr. Kevelin B Jones, II, is Principal at Doyle-Rider Elementary and is as committed to his community as he is his students. Dr. Jones is teaming up with Pastor John P. Kee to adopt Elementary Schools in Flint, Michigan. Kee says, “There’s still a major need in this wonderful city. This week the Water Pods will close without all the lead lines being replaced.” Pastor Key has agreed to supply water for The Doyle-Ryder Education Center, for the rest of the school year, and purchase new uniforms for the school. He will also bring the Change the World Tour to the City of Flint.
The word community comes from the Latin communis—simply meaning common. Regardless of where you call home, we have a commonality with the people of Flint—we are citizens. As citizens, we must continue to come together and help those in need. I am typing this from my bed in Maryland, with my son asleep by my side. These words won’t be enough, and neither will your reading of this post. Unfortunately, sending bottles of water won’t do much in the long-term either. Real community leaders, Dr. Jones and Pastor Kee to name two, are working on maintaining a short-term fix. Changes to the long-term can only be settled by utilizing your civic power: 1. 15 Michigan officials have been indicted on charges, yet the man at the top has skirted the law. Gov. Snyder must be held accountable for his administration and the criminal actions carried out by officials in the State of Michigan; 2. Work with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver to ensure the Water Pods remain open until all lead/galvanized pipes are replaced; 3. For families who want/need to leave Flint, but cannot afford to do so, citizens should get their elected officials to campaign and fight to move them to areas unaffected by this disaster. The road ahead will remain tough, but the righteous shall prevail.
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