The crisis of lead in our water in Flint and the pandemic of COVID-19 have something in common: Neither had to be so dangerous.
It’s been six years since the city of Flint decided to take water from the Flint River – water that turned out to contaminated with lead. Since then, I’ve suffered the miscarriages of two sets of twins, and my daughter has also miscarried. My 11-year-old son struggles at school so I have taught him at home for more than three years.
The lead exposure compromised our immune systems; now COVID-19 is another threat to our lives.
I became involved with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival because I wanted to get safe water for Flint. We’ve talked to politicians for years, but I’m still using bottled water for washing vegetables, cooking, brushing teeth – everything except taking a shower, and we don’t stay in the shower for long. We go through two to three cases of the individual bottles of water a day.
And I am still involved because I want to be part of a movement that’s fighting to create a just society for all, and that’s the mission of the Poor People’s Campaign. And I testified at our digital mass meeting April 30 along with other impacted people from three other states – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio. We told our stories on the Poor People’s Campaign Facebook page.
As Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign has said, the Flint water crisis and other environmental crimes are cutting short whole generations of people, with this gross and vast injustice denying youth and children their right to living their lives to their full potential.
One way that I’m fortunate is that I’m still employed and able to work from home during this pandemic, which is wreaking havoc on African-American communities in Michigan. I work as an executive assistant for the M.A.D.E. Institute, which helps citizens returning to society and at-risk youths to get back into their communities.
We’re just 14% of the state’s population but we make up more than 40% of the coronavirus-related deaths in Michigan.
Just as Flint officials had early warnings of the contaminated water that was coming out of our faucets and could have fixed the problem, our nation’s leaders have wasted precious time in handling this pandemic.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the national campaign, says it’s the “fissures and wounds of inequality in America that were open and gave entry to this pandemic.” We need a real rescue package that helps everyone, especially those of us who are among the 140 million poor and low-wealth people in this country.
Congress passed bills that totaling $3 trillion, much of it going to big corporations. But workers barely got a crumb. As Rev. Barber says, we need health insurance for the uninsured and paid sick leave for all. Those are some of the reasons why Congress must pass a bill that helps people such as myself.
Even though I can work from home, other parts of my life are just as difficult as before this pandemic struck or harder. I have no personal transportation so I rely on friends to take me to stores for groceries and the massive amount of bottled water we need. Sometimes, the sheriff’s office here will deliver. But the store shelves are often empty of the supplies we desperately need: bathroom tissue, paper towels and disinfectant, for example.
The Poor People’s Campaign appealed to me originally because I thought that if everyone fighting systemic racism came together, then maybe something would get done.
I still believe that because I have no other choice. I must care of my son, and I’ll keep fighting for him.
I urge everyone to join me in the Poor People’s Campaign. Sign our petition moveon.org/poverty. Let’s fight together for the healthy and just society we all deserve.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is building a generationally transformative digital gathering called the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, on June 20, 2020. At that assembly, we will demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda