Don’t forget about Flint. People there still don’t have clean water.

I’m from Flint, lucky to have my water untainted and saddened by the hundreds of homes ruined, people poisoned and voices unheard.

We must never forget about Flint. The aftereffects of lead poisoning will continue to harm and haunt many for the years to come. May we learn from this negligence and work and speak so something like this will never happen again.

The following is a poem I wrote a year ago when the coverage of the crisis was just beginning:

Water That Has To Boil

I hold in my hand a map that pinpoints every area where lead is in the water
Just yesterday I said that we, that y’all weren’t going to keel over
That’s what the governor said too
But Rick Snyder knew that it was a possibility in a different kind of way
That we, that y’all were going to die
People die here all the time, we’re desensitized to what comes as a shock to another town’s news
I say “we” because I’m a Flintstone too, I say “y’all” because my water isn’t tainted and because
I use my cousin’s death by getting shot, my grandmother’s old address, my father’s high school alma mater, my familiarity to the city and its danger as sorry examples of street cred
I end my envelopes: Flint, Michigan 48532
But I’m in the middle of Flint and Flint Township, smudged a block in between the two
There is a flaw in this thinking
Do I not live in Flint because I don’t live where the crime is mostly concentrated?
Flint Township isn’t at all sunshine and rainbows, but Flint isn’t just eclipses and gunshots
We’re nearly one and the same, we share a name, families, histories, stories
It’s we, y’all

I look at the map once again
Damn, I am literally a block away from having my water look like piss and shit
What if my parents were potentially going to buy a house a minute more east?
But when the water plant made blueprints, this is where they stopped
A block away from my house
Once I cross Ballenger, the water turns to a broth
It’s alphabet soup, the names we forget in the Rolling Stone columns that put the scope on lives that have been demolished
The last time I was at a soup kitchen, I saw what I thought were polar opposites
A one-legged man in a wheelchair followed by a man in a three-piece suit with a Rolex on his wrist
But they were one and the same; they both were hungry and wanted company
Sometimes it’s nice to listen to voices
Or have yours listened to
A boy no older than 8 steps up
He isn’t even tall enough to see over the counter
But he directs us to fill plates for his three younger siblings like a seasoned parent
And I talk to them afterward —
“I don’t have a dad”
“I’m hungry”
One screams and yells in a tantrum

That’s what’s happening right now
Flintstones protest and babies kick and scream, scared of water that’s their Kryptonite
We get a response of, “I’m sorry this happened”
Later he says, “I’m sorry”
Well I’m not sorry, but how the **** are you still in office, Snyder?
I was about to address you as Mr., but I have no respect for you
My face twisted at the mention of your name since the moment your laws cut my mom and her friends’ pay because they’re teachers
You claim you’re one tough nerd
But let’s try one weak negligent

Every time you open your mouth with your American flag lapel on your jacket,
The North Side flies real ones upside down at half-mast
How do you smile?
How can you smile with cameras flashing when you knew of this months ago?
And did nothing
How could you send water to state employees in the city at the same time and now claim,
Oh, yeah, that was for the public too!

But it wasn’t just the smug smiling governor

Keith Creagh and the Department of Environmental Quality covered up proof of astronomical amounts of lead
Susan Hedman scoffed at a House memo that would’ve sent in the cavalry before the cavalry was needed
The emergency manager, Darnell Earley, put his name that should live in infamy on the dotted line to save a mere $5 million
What are the damages now, Darnell?
And this was after an incompetent city council voted 7-1 in 2013 to switch back to Detroit water
A council that includes my dad’s drunken DUI childhood neighbor made a better decision than people who went to school for political science
Get this, political science:
The lead levels has been found as high as 104 ppb 
The federal maximum is 15
I saw Mr. Walling, the former mayor, praying in the chapel an hour before service every Sunday

And what about the city as a whole?
This would not happen in a majority white / affluent city
Think of the steps taken there just to water the tulips and lilies
And this majority-Black population lives in what looks like a third-world country
Ailing, dying from diseases nobody has ever heard of before

I once wrote about the rise of the city, but we’ve been sent into a Hell
Back to looking semi-apocalyptic
My subdivision is getting darker so my mom won’t go to the Kroger around the corner alone anymore
The town is now more inescapable than it was before and neighborhoods are cell blocks
Homes are literally worth nothing because it’s illegal to sell them and who wants to move here now?
But residents still received fliers of babies smiling in a bathtub, telling parents that it was OK to bathe their children in water that didn’t look like water
Again, a covertness to reveal the truth and a smile
Remember Ronald McDonald
The only thing people can do now to help is to send plastic water bottles to a food desert where some are forced to desert to fast food 
The damage has been done and this just adds to the multitude of problems
When I read my local paper, it’s not just the water that has to boil
The heat on our faces evaporates tears
There’s always a shoulder to cry on
Like murder, it’s somehow become commonplace to leave a sleeve soaking wet

Kids in the inner city have sleeves that are holy
Their community is set up to fail and it takes more than sheer will-power to have the power
Outsiders hear you’re from here and give you a look of disgust
I’ll never forget the raised heads and closed mouths disconnecting a sigh when I say my hometown’s name
Flint — like it’s the Lord’s name in vain
It makes you feel like less of a person on top of the experiment you’ve been treated like
The pride of being born and raised fades — a hometown burden

I think a lot of people forgot
Like people will forget
They’ll forget about Flint like always and they’ll forget the decades it’ll take to replace pipes and the near year until everything is relatively back to normal
But this isn’t just something you can put a blanket over like the blatant statements putting down this city
The half-life of lead is still alive in bloodstreams
Traumatic experiences for human beings cannot be forgotten overnight
Children who already have low IQs will have scores that continue to tumble
And the impact of stupidity will reign for years to come
From a stupid governor and his staff
To a sadly stupid kid who will make a bad choice
Because think about it, at least one of these children harmed will take a life
People don’t just die from the water poisoning
They die from guns and cars and knives too
Which will be held by those who were told that the water was safe to drink
That’s what happened to my cousin over a decade ago

At the same hospital I was born in, they’ll give children teddy bears
The media put a two-year-old on the cover of Time
This isn’t the press we wanted, nor deserved
We hate that the story told about Flint is a negative one
In what was once an oasis, we don’t look for water
We look for Pb and THMs
Holding on to hope and asking why to fathers and Father
I don’t know where everybody is or how my extended family is doing
So I just hold this map
Outside a city near death
On its last breath
But it’ll take two more, then three

We won’t suffocate
We won’t die of thirst

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