I am Talaiha, a 10th grader, attending Anacostia High School and a member of the Black Swan Academy.The last week of April, I we traveled to Flint, Michigan (a city where residents have no access to clean water and have experience high levels of lead exposure for years). This was my experience…
On Friday morning I was woken up by Ms. Kristi at 6:45 AM and I started to get ready for our trip. All I could do was think about getting on the airplane. Everyone kept telling me not to worry about the plane, it’s not that bad but that really did not help me feel better. Not everyone has the same experiences and what might not be scary to one person can be scary to another. Ms. Kristi told us she was scared her first plane ride and that did help me feel a little better. Once the plane got into the air I was looking out of the window and I liked it. The view was just so amazing and beautiful. It took my fear away.
Friday evening once we got to Flint we went to the Boys and Girls Club. While we were there we talked about the situation with the water being poisoned with lead. One of the things that came up was if this would happen in a rich white community? I don’t think that type of thing would happen in a rich, white community because the public pays more attention to them than us and that is something that really needs to change. We all have voices and we should start to use them by helping with this situation, as someone said “we are not the future, we are the present”. We are here now so we need to make change now and get people on board about what’s happening in Flint.
On Saturday we interviewed two mothers from Flint, Desiree and Nakiya. Nakiya told us if they[the government] would have been honest about the water situation she would have given birth to her twins. She had been drinking the water ever since 2014, the high levels of lead she was exposed to caused her have a miscarry. She told us losing her twins almost killed her and she doesn’t want to stop this fight because she wants someone to pay for what happened to her and her family from being exposed to Flint lead water. Desiree supported Nakiya because she went through the same with her son. Her son is 10 years old and he was exposed to lead in Baltimore. She feels that everyone doesn’t look at the situation the way they should. She told us about a young girl who was poisoned with lead and attempted suicide because she wasn’t getting the help she needed. She shared that no one was paying attention to her situation. Both mothers think that this issue wouldn’t have happened in a rich white community. The government did this to save money at the expense of the lives of the low-income and residents of color. This action is going to end up costing the government much more, by the time they replace the pipes, and deal with all of the other problems it has caused for the city and residents.
After the interview we went into the community to pass out water. I, along with 19 other youth and young professionals, split into teams and went door to door passing out the water. It was just amazing. The look on people’s faces was just heart melting. We were helping people who didn’t have transportation to get to water. They were o happy you would think someone gave them a car. One lady we gave water to had a son, he looked like he had to be 4 or 5. When I asked if they needed water he looked at me and said yes. He then looked at his mom and said “Mommy we got clean water now!”, I almost cried because these children are going days with taking showers, eating, or brushing their teeth because they need clean water. Giving them water was like we lifted some of the weight off their shoulders. While we were out canvassing we learned water was not the only problem. We went to one house and this woman had at least 30 cases of water. I started talking to her and she said “I have water but that’s not the only problem.” I asked her what she meant. She said that everyone is focusing on water but no one realizes that businesses relied on water and because of it many businesses closed and thousands of people are out of jobs because of the water being poisoned. I thought about it and realized she was right. People do use water for a lot of jobs and no one can use poisoned water. The government tried to save money and ended up costing everyone else in Flint to lose money.
On our last day there we went to church and it was amazing. It made me feel good because everything the Pastor was saying was things I needed to hear. I needed to hear that blessings were coming and that better days were ahead. After everything we had done I just knew blessings are coming. When you do good things good things happen to you. I just felt so great because I was able to put a smile on people’s faces just by going to their homes and giving them water. It helped them out so much. You never know how much little things might mean to someone who really needs it.
To the flint residents, this trip has taught me a lot. No one can go through something like this alone; they need someone there for them and someone there to help them. I learned that everyone needs a helping hand and there is something (no matter how small) for everyone to offer.