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Neither healed nor whole Caravan brings free water and attention back to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich.

By Katrina Muhammad @katrinamuhammad | Last updated: Nov 12, 2018 - 8:34:12 AM

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FLINT, Mich.—It has been over four years since a stunning and heartbreaking water crisis in this hardscrabble town made national and international headlines.

But the Flint Water Crisis publicized across America is yet to be resolved. “In 2012, the legislature passed an emergency manager law, which enabled the state to take complete control of Flint governance because of financial woes. The emergency manager immediately, and undemocratically, implemented austerity measures. Most significantly, in an effort to save the city $5 million over two years, Flint’s water supply was switched from the relatively clean Lake Huron to the filthy Flint River,” observed Curt Guyette of the ACLU of Michigan. Since then, he added, lead levels have dropped to below federal action levels as a result of switching the city from the highly corrosive Flint River back to the safe and clean Detroit water system. “In response to the testing, Gov. Rick Snyder recently announced that the state would no longer provide free bottled water to the city’s residents, but it would continue to provide water filters free of charge,” Mr. Guyette continued in a piece written a few months back. 

“But many of the city’s residents don’t much believe the water’s safe. Who can blame them? Because of decisions made by state-appointed emergency managers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, they were forced to use water laced with dangerously high levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin, and contaminated by bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, which claimed at least 12 lives during the 18 months the city used the Flint River as its municipal water source. Despite the concerns voiced by residents and mounting scientific evidence that a massive problem existed, those same officials repeatedly offered assurances that the water was safe and attacked the credibility of those attempting to reveal the truth,” he said.

“Gov. Snyder’s termination of the free bottled water program has met intense resistance,” added Mr. Guyette. “Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who proved blood lead levels in children dramatically increased after the switch to the river, tweeted that bottled water should continue to be provided until all the city’s lead service lines are replaced.”

“Because of the Flint water crisis, it’s now generally acknowledged that the federal lead limit is dangerously outdated. Lead is especially harmful to pregnant women, infants, and young children. Even at very low levels, lead can cause kids to lose IQ points and to develop learning disabilities and behavioral problems,” said the investigative reporter for the Michigan ACLU.

“For families who got sick believing official lies about the water, there are few reasons for faith in government now, especially when some of the very officials accused of playing a role in the crisis—including two health officials charged with involuntary manslaughter—remain on the job, while taxpayers finance their defense. In all, 15 state and local officials were hit with felony charges, with four having taken plea deals in return for their cooperation with prosecutors,” he added.

“Multiple class action lawsuits and dozens of individual actions have been filed in an attempt to win some compensation for the damage done to residents of a city that is about 57 percent Black and has a poverty rate that hovers around 40 percent,” he wrote earlier this year.

“When everything’s accounted for, the emergency manager’s decision to save $5 million could easily end up costing taxpayers well over $1 billion.”

Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, played a pivotal role in helping expose the lead contamination of Flint’s water supply.

A State of Emergency and federal disaster declaration were assigned to the Flint Water Crisis. The Michigan National Guard, non-profits, celebrities, ordinary people, corporations and church organizations gave out countless bottles of water to residents. 

Today, residents are still figuring out how many cases of water they need to buy for their cooking and bathing needs while paying for water they can’t even drink or wash in. 

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Judge Greg Mathis

“Two years ago we pressured the federal and state government through marches, we coordinated rallies, we had legal forums, and we were successful in getting $200 million committed between state and federal government but all of the money hasn’t been used and the pipes haven’t been rebuilt,” said Judge Greg Mathis, a former judge in his home state of Michigan best known for his TV show and an advocate for Black and poor people.

“The state a few months ago stopped the distribution of free bottled water. I was alarmed at that and so was my sister political mentor in some ways, Aretha Franklin. Our last conversation was ‘Greg you got to go back up there and fight some more and do a little social service and social justice’ as she referred to,” he said.

Those words inspired a caravan from the Motor City to Flint, Mich., where some 13,000 cases were given away as part of Judge Mathis’ effort to help Flint residents and bring the problem back to public view.

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Judge Greg Mathis along with others spearheaded a caravan transporting 13,000 cases of water to Flint. Volunteers set up and distributed water at eight locations throughout the city.

The caravan arrived in Flint on Nov. 1 and held a “Water For Flint” rally with Mayor Karen Weaver at Quinn Chapel AME Church. The effort, inspired by Ms. Franklin’s activism in the heyday of the civil rights movement, seeks substantive changes. There were eight water give-away locations for Flint residents put together with the aid of the non-profit Mathis Community Center.

“They have to accelerate the rebuilding of the pipes and build the trust of the community,” said Judge Mathis.

The rally was sparked by “every Flint resident and other residents throughout the state that are also having a problem with the local water in their community,” he added.

The judge thanked the members of the Fruit of Islam, the men of the Nation of Islam who came to Flint and handed out cases of water to residents who lined up for blocks. 

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Trucks with bottled water ready for transport and distribution.
Judge Mathis credited Muhammad Mosque No. 1 of the Nation of Islam in Detroit, the Moorish Science Temple, the Mathis Center, and unions in Detroit and in Flint with delivering tens of thousands of cases of water. “We have six semi-trucks, over 40 cars from Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw as part of our caravan. We are very fulfilled by the response,” he said. Planning for the free water giveaway and rally started in October.

“This effort for Muhammad Mosque No. 1 is a continuation of the direction given to us by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. He instructed us to help our community, make it a decent and safe place to stay. He has constantly instructed us and has been an example for us when it comes to helping our people who are in need. Our people in Flint are still in great need, so here we stand,” said Student Minister Troy Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 1.

“Aretha Franklin put Judge Greg Mathis on an assignment. And he jumped on that assignment with heart and dedication. I am appreciative and feel blessed that the Nation of Islam was able to help Judge Mathis make his word bond to Aretha. I thank Muhammad Mosque No. 1 and the Flint Nation of Islam Study Group for their donations, loading trucks and doing whatever it took to make it happen,” he added.

The tragedy is so great and so unthinkable that some residents are calling it the Flint Water Conspiracy instead of the Flint Water Crisis. 

“First let me tell the Flint residents to stay strong and keep the faith. Help is on the way. We are going to revive this issue and make sure that they get fresh bottled water first of all, (and) social services,” vowed Judge Mathis. “And then we are going to resume our fight through social justice.” 

He encouraged rally participants to vote Nov. 6 for someone to hold accountable at the state and federal levels. “There is a new governor to be voted on and a new attorney general to be voted on. Get out and vote,” Judge Mathis urged.

“You see that we are still in need of  bottled water,” said Mayor Weaver. “We have made such progress, but we have a long way to go. To see the number of people that came out lets you know that we still have some challenges that we are facing. What we wanted to do was get the message out, and the information out, and get bottled water to the people. 

“It has been frustrating, and it has been difficult to get accurate information out to people. We want them to know that yes, we are changing the pipes and the water is testing better. But we still have needs and we have not been fixed yet or made whole.” 

She also encouraged strong voter turnout on Nov. 6 to put people in place who will support Flint’s recovery and keep it from happening again.

“We can always put a price on infrastructure and a price on pipes and fixtures but when you look at the human toll that this has taken we may never know the full impact because we have already had people who have died. We have kids who have been impacted; we have seniors with compromised immune systems that have been impacted. And, one thing we know is that this is a basic human right, we should not even be having the conversation about some access to clean water,” she said.

“I’m really hoping that people are paying attention to what’s going on here in this city, because there are so many Flints; not just in Michigan but across this whole country,” the mayor added.

“We have said don’t let us go through this crisis and then don’t learn from us. Use social media to keep the Flint story front and center. Go back to their own communities and question the water quality standards. Get the emergency manager law voted out.”

Clergy from church organizations from across Michigan and political leaders supported the water giveaway and rally.

Pastor Shairinese Jackson of Quinn Chapel hosted the event. “There is now a real lack of trust because we were lied to. And then still even after they had supposedly made things whole, people are experiencing brown water and pipes in the home have not been replaced,” she said. 

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Community groups worked together to distribute water in Flint.

“Some of the pipes in the street have been replaced, but not the pipes that lead to your home. You can still get contaminates in your water. For the state to stop supplying water stating that it is all good—the people know that is not the case. For those able to financially replace their own pipes, they are good and have done that. However, the vast amount in our community cannot afford to do that. You have the haves and the have nots and the have nots feel like they have not been taken care of.”

As a licensed counselor, the pastor sees a lot of trauma and a need for treatment. Money and resources are needed to help adults, children and the elderly, she said. 

“Everybody is so vulnerable,” said Pastor Jackson. “We put our trust in the people we have elected and those who are supposedly working in our best interest to find out those same people have been the ones who switched the water over and now they don’t even want to supply water. The water is not good; there is still a big issue that needs to be addressed.”

Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, a Michigan state representative, said, “Thank you to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, to Minister Troy Muhammad and the entire family of brotherhood and sisterhood (of the Nation of Islam) that always exemplify servitude. We know this has been an ongoing crisis. 

“It should not be. All in all residents and citizens deserve quality drinking water, but I’m very appreciative that not only has the NOI joined in partnership with Judge Greg Mathis but that all the brothers and sisters are out here today making this a reality and making sure that Flint knows that they do matter and that we do care.” 

She represents the state legislature 8th House District and complained that the problem has been unsolved for too long. Support political leaders who will not ignore urban communities, the health crisis, financial crisis, job crisis and incarceration, said the state lawmaker. 

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A rally was held Nov. 1 in Flint, Mich. to bring the continued problems stemming from the water crisis back to the forefront.
The Nation of Islam collaborated with many organizations including Pastor Mo and his church organization for a donation of over 15 pallets of water, which equals 84 cases of water per pallet. Muslim pioneer LeeRuther Muhammad of Mosque No. 1, donated 52 cases of water. Student FOI Captain Sharrieff Muhammad and Student MGT Captain Missey Muhammad, who oversees Nation of Islam women in the mosque, organized water delivery to the Mathis Community Center. 

“We don’t plan to stop. We plan to continue in the efforts with Judge Mathis and the rest of the organizations to assist Flint through the grace and mercy of Allah in any way that we can until justice has been served and the residents of Flint have proper drinking water,” said Joi X of Muhammad Mosque No. 1.

The next water drive is slated for December. To donate water, contact mathiscommunitycenter.com. If you have questions, email Joi X, joimgt@aol.com. Joi X can also be reached at 313-342-8582. Email solomonchoice2@aol.com to reach Solomon Choice of the Mathis Community Center.