Black Lives Matter hoping to help with water problems

Group raising funds for Flint

Black Lives Matter of Columbus will join with other groups at a rally and march at 2 p.m. Saturday to raise its voice and money to help people in Flint, Michigan, get their tainted water problems resolved.

The event will begin at Columbus City Hall.

The local chapter’s leaders have had Flint residents on their minds since the organization began in July, said the chapter’s organizer and chairwoman, Brittany King. That focus is partly because Flint’s population is 56 percent black, with 42 percent of city residents living below the poverty level, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

And it’s also partly because the Columbus chapter’s focus is meant to be broad in scope when confronting injustice.

“We believe one of the main reasons those people are not getting help is because of their demographics,” King said. “If this were anywhere else, or Columbus, Indiana, it wouldn’t have lasted for more than a week.”

Residents have endured tap water contaminated with lead and other toxins from Flint River water not properly treated since 2014, The Associated Press reported. Another source of the contamination has been old lead pipes that leached the toxin into homes and businesses.

Columbus resident Anthony Blair, a Flint native who moved away 20 years ago, visited there recently. He will be among several speakers Saturday.

“I’m saddened and incensed by this, all at the same time,” Blair said. “There’s a real juggling of emotions.”

He said he still has aunts, uncles, cousins and friends in the city affected every day by the water crisis.

“One friend told me, ‘We pray at my house before we even get into the shower,’” Blair said.

Residents cannot safely drink the water without a filter, The Associated Press reported.

In children, lead exposure can cause problems ranging from impaired cognition to behavior disorders. In adults, lead exposure can impact the heart, kidneys and nerves.

Black Lives Matter, working alongside about five other area race- and justice-oriented groups Saturday, ideally wants to raise as much as $10,000 — enough to fix the pipes in one Flint home, according to a nonprofit agency, Green For All.

Money from donations at the event and also a GoFundMe account totaling $700 by Friday afternoon on Facebook will be relayed to Green For All’s Fix The Pipes project in Flint.

“But this is about not only raising money,” Blair said. “It’s about people deciding to have a voice. A couple years ago, when it was big media news, a lot of these stars and President Obama went to Flint. And unfortunately, now you don’t hear anything about it.

“So people still need to just raise their voice and say ‘This isn’t right.’”

Besides Blair, the weekend meeting will include other speakers, including Dominic Dorsey, a representative from the Indianapolis-based Don’t Sleep, a black equality-oriented group, King said. Also, former Flint resident and current Indianapolis spoken-word artist Crystal Turner will speak. So, too, will the Rev. Fred King, a member of the local African American Pastors Alliance.

King will read written comments from Flint residents about the crisis. Other groups lending support at the event will be the Indianapolis-based Indy10 Black Lives Matter and the Bloomington-based Students Against State Violence.

For visibility for the cause, people also will march from City Hall northward on Washington Street, left onto Fifth and then southward and east until arriving at The Commons, King said.

Coming to the aid of Flint

What: Black Lives Matter of Columbus rally and march

When: 2 to about 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Columbus City Hall, Second and Washington streets.

Information: Facebook page for Black Lives Matter of Columbus.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.