The City of Resilience

For four years, the city of Flint has been longing for an explanation as to why they cannot rely on the most vital aspect of everyday life in their community: water.

For a place that has been labeled as a decaying, struggling environment, the residents in this community have not stopped fighting for change. Citizens of this community have rejected complacency, are demanding answers and refuse to be ignored by a government that they cannot trust.

Flint is not defined by the water crisis. Flint is defined by the intimate, in-depth stories of each of its residents that describe the way lead-filled water has permanently changed their lives and called them to action.

The fight for Flint is a community effort – and everyone here has a story of resilience.

A Protestor

TonyPalladeno Jr., a Flint resident for 57 years and activist in the community, has been a determined and prominent resident and activist fighting for a clean city. Palladeno aims to call out what he feels to be an elitist, corporate scheme to suppress and purposefully poison the people of Flint. As he has tried to confront the problem, he says by speaking out he’s being targeted. “I’m being arrested for fighting for my right for water. We’ve been poisoned. It seems as though every effort we make is being diminished or degraded. We’re being denied, people keep dying, and I’m sick of all the lies.” His 11-year-old grand-daughter is what compels him to remain in Flint and speak out against injustice. “I want to believe things are better. But I watch my granddaughter cry her eyes out every day. And she doesn’t know it, but I cry with her. She shouldn’t have togo through this. All of us in the community are in this together. The water has no color barriers. It will kill all of us.”

A Future Leader

Mari Copeny is also someone who has taken a stand for the sake of her generation.The 11-year-old known as “Little Miss Flint” has taken matters into her own hands. Not only has she successfully gotten the attention from former PresidentBarrack Obama, but she is reaching out and building connections with people inside and outside of the community, in the hopes of telling Flint’s story. On top of all of her activism, Mari has handed out over 500,000 bottles of water to Flint’s residents. “I don’t want Flint to be forgotten. I want to remind people that we’re still here.” Her mom, Lulu Copeny, is encouraging Mari to confront a larger issue: inclusion. “There are too many old people in the White House,”Mari says.

Lulu added,“There needs to be a better representation of young people of all races, genders, and ethnicities... when they are heard, real change is possible.” 

A Life Saver

KeriWebber is a strong-willed resident devoted to helping others. She has dedicated her time to provide cases of water to 67 families and has fought to rescue and nurture cats and dogs who have been poisoned. But her biggest battle is watching her two daughters and husband’s health steadily decline due to lead poisoning.Her daughter, Stephanie, has legionnaires disease. Her husband lost sight in his right eye and can’t maintain a blood pressure lower than 160/120. At 17years old, Keri’s other daughter, Victoria, discovered that she had severe lead-poising that spread to both her kidney and liver. “We had no idea every glass I handed her, every meal I made, was poisoning [Stephanie].” Every medical discovery, both from Keri’s pets and family, have been flukes. “I begged Victoria’s pediatrician to run tests because we knew something was wrong, but she denied any connection to lead poising and dismissed my daughter as a patient.” Keri had her pipes replaced to copper lines in 2016. She said that psychologically, watching the pipe that has been a health hazard for so long finally removed, meant more to her husband and daughter than anything. But the menace associated with the water will never go away.

“The stress over trying to keep my family together is what will bury me. You can’t deny that the tests show the water getting better, but the lead count is still three times the federal limit. We will never use tap water again, no matter how much we trust the science. It doesn’t matter, all it takes is one piece of lead.” 

A Water Warrior

Vicki Marx has been a Flint resident for 14 years. She attended gatherings and actions that addressed the water crisis. She spoke at a sit-in and demanded assistance for those who need medical attention. In January of 2016 she was diagnosed withParkinson’s disease, due to the high lead levels in her body. Now if she wants to participate in local actions and events, she needs a cane. Vicki has built a homemade sand and charcoal rain barrel filtration system to ensure that her water is safe and easily accessible. “The state has been saying the water is fine, so the media parrots that same fact, without actually talking to any of us about it, even though I think not treating our water was deliberate.” Vicki wants to spread a message that warns other people in Flint and surrounding communities that what is happening to her could be happening to them and to not trust everything they are being told. “I wasn’t an activist until I got poisoned. I feel like people need to wake up [because] the apathy is heartbreaking. ButFlint is strong. There are enough people who haven’t given up and that gives me hope.”

A Home Body

EugeneTaylor has lived in Flint is whole life. Him and a lot of his family members still reside in Flint. But his biggest inspiration for sticking around is his7-year-old daughter. “I love my 7 daughter and I want to see her grow. I need to be positive for her. And, my family is here, I’ve lived here all my life. I was going to leave, but I ain’t going too far.” Although he says that raising kids here is rough because of the lack of schools and responsibility of keeping up with his house, Eugene also talks about how there is still opportunity inFlint. “[This city] used to be full of people. It’s not the worst place to’s not a place with nothing. It could be a lot worse. There’s still opportunity here. It’s still rough, but it’s picking up and I see the ways that they are trying to make it better.” Overall, Eugene has a positive outlook on the place he calls home. “You can mad and upset, but ultimately thinking positive helps and seeing my little girl be happy keeps me happy.”

A Brother

Devante, 19, only knows Flint. Other than Detroit, he has never experienced anywhere else.Devante does admit that it’s a rough place to live. “When I was little, I got everything I wanted, but the more I’ve grown up, the more I’ve felt like I’m on my own. And it’s not safe to stay here or live here. And it’s not always unsafe, but people are still dying.” Even though it’s a daily struggle, Devante has accepted his experiences growing up with the water crisis. “This is my life every day, what I see, what I hear, that’s my life. If I had money, I would help out with the water. I would tear all the abandoned houses down. I would build schools, build new houses. But first thing’s first…I would fix the water.” 

From left, Devion, 17, a 10-year-old boy, Arterrion, 14, and Devante, 19 get together to play basketball at Doyle Ryder Community School on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 in Flint, Michigan. The boys get together with other friends to help pass the time and have something to do. 

These are just some of the perspectives people have regarding their city. The strength and spirit of Flint’s community is greater than the danger that the lead water poses. Whether it’s volunteering to distribute water to those who need it, confronting local officials, health professionals, and other political figures, or coming together as a community…Flint has heart and hope.

Flint may have a long way to go and the struggle is far from over. But one thing is undeniable: the residents remain resilient.

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