The news from Governor Rick Snyder that he will end free bottled water for Flint residents dealt a devastating blow to a community rocked by a man-made water crisis, but as is often the case for Flint, the community is stepping up.
Specifically, a 10-year old named Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny – better known to most as Little Miss Flint.
Mari quickly became a fixture associated with the City of Flint as soon as the water crisis made national headlines, especially when she was the driving force behind former President Barack Obama’s visit to the city in 2016.
And Mari has not stopped advocating for her friends and family in Flint since. She has led or been a part of multiple crowdfunding campaigns on behalf of children in Flint, whether it’s to see Black Panther, read A Wrinkle in Time, or simply obtain and provide fresh food for other children and families – a key element in battling adverse effects of lead poisoning.
Now, after raising more than $27,000 in two days (and growing), Mari is enlisting the help of Laborer’s Local 1098 and the nonprofit Pack Your Back to distribute bottled water beginning about 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 at the University of Michigan-Flint parking lot on the corner of Saginaw Street and 5th Avenue.
“Laborers Local 1098 is proud to help in the important cause Mari has undertaken. When the water distribution centers closed, too many were left in need,” said Mike Gillis, spokesperson for the AFL-CIO. “Mari’s leadership brings hope across the city and we are just helping with the delivery.”
Water will be distributed until 5 p.m. or when all the water is gone, Gillis said. The GoFundMe campaign for the event states that every $1 donated can buy 11 bottles of clean water.
Several days ago, Flint and its allies recognized the four-year anniversary of the day a Snyder-appointed emergency manager made the decision to switch Flint’s water source in an effort toward cutting costs for the financially strapped city.
The point is noteworthy because, as Mari has discussed on her social media, four years means many children about to enter school or just starting it have only ever known tainted water in their lifetimes. Further, many of the policy issues that allowed Flint to happen in the first place still have not been remedied.
The Snyder administration’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year has proposed cutting $16.9 million overall, just in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as it relates to Flint-specific expenditures.
In its place, if passed per Snyder’s recommendation (which is still being debated in the state legislature), would be one-time funding of $4.6 million to provide food and nutrition services in Flint, among other types of medical and educational assistance overseen by the DHHS. One-time funding (instead of ongoing funding) means it will be up to the state’s new governor next year to determine a new base number considered to be sufficient for these types of services.