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Urgent Call From Michigan: Non-Traditional Leadership In Action

This month, I’d like to highlight some of the urgent work happening right now in Michigan where our social justice colleagues and friends are dealing with an environmental crisis and add my voice to their call for collective action. For a few weeks so much attention has been given to a  little town in Michigan. All major news channels are talking about Flint and the ongoing water crisis; finally. Though this has been a reality for many residents in Michigan. My first thought was for our Michigan friendships forged at Creating Space last year, where we heard directly from We The People of Detroit who are a part of The People’s Water Board Coalition.
 
Back in September, We The People of Detroit were very concerned about what they clearly saw as a privatization of water by government officials. They have witnessed the dangers of emergency managers appointed by Governor Snyder via water shut-offs  and vehemently oppose actions that hurt residents of Detroit and Michigan. As many locals at CSXII explained, these governor appointed emergency managers are not accountable to the neighborhoods they manage. They are not elected and have total control over their appointed cities. These non-democratic actions have extensive consequences as Dr Peter Hammer explained at Creating Space. Now, as a direct result of Governor Snyder’s decisions, many people have been poisoned by this state’s government. Flint residents, young and old, are now all going to have to live with the full effects of lead poisoning. Though for months, this struggle has been ignored, and the governmental systems have tried to shut it's residents out, non-traditional leaders have taken up the call and have collaborated and together remained engaged in the struggle and voiced their plights through social media, some at a personal cost. 
 
But this is not the end of their work, no one has been arrested or brought to justice for this calamity or others done since the rise of emergency managers. For instance, in 2014 We The People of Detroit bared witness to the United Nations to denounce water shut offs that has been happening in Detroit as a human rights violation.  And now Flint, where there is no answer to what the future will hold for all the children who will now live out their lives with varying levels of disabilities because of this. In the future maybe some recognition may even come of the fact that Flint, like Detroit and many other cities in the US, are prime examples of environmental racism.
 
Though aid and clean water is desperately needed in Michigan, it is not clear how this will all play out. The People’s Water Board Coalition and We The People of Detroit have shown real leadership by standing up to these injustices for years through collective leadership and community organizing. Currently, they are delivering water bottles daily to those in need in Flint. More than that, they are engaging in conversations that explore sustainable solutions that do not create more pollution to Flint. (Bottled water creates excess waste and re-inforce the privatization of water.) After hearing that LLC was in Detroit this last fall, many friends throughout the Bay Area community have asked me what they can do to help. 
 
The first thing we can all commit to is being aware of what is happening in our own cities to ensure that this type of injustice does not occur to other communities. Knowledge truly is power. Next, I recommend we all follow The People’s Water Board Coalition which is a network of organizations that are “working together to protect our water from pollution, high water rates, and privatization.” They are committed and are keeping track of the Flint Water Scandal. By connecting with them, you too can stay up to date on calls for action. Finally, I advise that if they are able to financially contribute to please support We The People of Detroit who are delivering bottled-water daily and will continue to provide assistance and coordinate resources. For a full, vetted list of where to send financial support to those on the ground I share this page posted by the Flint Water Scandal group.
 
Even as we publish this month’s articles, this story continues to evolve and I hope we have not seen the last of Flint in the news so that these governmental officials will disclose the truth behind this mass poisoning. Lastly, our prayers and thoughts remain with the victims in Flint and our colleges at We The People of Detroit and The People’s Water Board Coalition who without a doubt will continue to exercise their leadership and fight for justice and water access for all.