flint water emergency
It's been two years, and we still have a water problem. While we continue to work on getting safe and affordable water to all the residents of the city, it is also critical that people of faith have a clear understanding of how this could happen, so that we can agitate, Jesus-style, for better public policies and a greater regard for the common good. Thanks for your invitations to tell our story, and for your commitment to a world that works for us all.
Here is how your dollars are helping:
You'll remember we asked for donations of money, but requested you not send bottled water. It's not simply that we like money better (and we promise not to blow it on drugs or alcohol). Your shipments of water require space to store, even for a short time, and staff time to load and unload; plus this puts a heavier burden on local activists to distribute them. We have handled hundreds of thousands of bottles, and will certainly continue to make this available -- purchased with your generous gifts, at wholesale where possible.
Through your gifts, we are turning Woodside into a "safe water house," to make free, filtered water available to the community in whatever size containers they would like. We've replaced drinking fountains with filtered ones, and tested them to be sure. Step 2, scheduled for August, is a high volume filtered line in our kitchen, that will allow access for larger bottle filling. We know this will be a help to all the people who use our building: a child development center, another congregation, about a dozen 12-step groups, and multiple other community groups who use our space. plus neighbors in the hundreds. And folks who access us from the bus stop at our door. And faculty, staff and students at our adjacent community college. That's a lot of people.
We have said that, as funds allow, we would seek partner churches or organizations in other neighborhoods who are willing to make the same "safe water house" arrangement. Gifts so far are sufficient for 3-4 more locations, and we are in conversation with those partners.
community partnerships & a groovy Intern Experience.
We have connected with the Flint Democracy Defense League and the Genesee County Hispanic Latino Collaborative, both of whom are working to connect in diverse communities with needed resources. We have made long-term space available to both these groups, one organizing for new approaches, and one responding to the needs of an under-served and overlooked population. Your gifts underwrite these arrangements.
Then, we designated part of the funds to secure a summer intern through the UCC/Alliance of Baptists' "summer communities of service." We engaged 3 interns throughout the summer, all in some capacity related to water, because all of Flint is related to water somehow; but one intern work in-house with our partners in the FDDL and the GCHLC, getting an education about what is needed and what is at stake.
We will continue to seek out ways to put your gifts to work in remediating this water crisis. Just because the national news shifted shifted it focus elsewhere does not mean the crisis is resolved. Watch this space for news of other ways you are helping here.
The work and the need are ongoing.
You can continue to send contributions to: Woodside Church (marked "water"), 1509 E Court St, Flint MI 48503.
and here are other ways to help:
- Volunteer. Woodside's partner activists and organizers are working especially to ensure that the most marginalized populations are getting services -- the poorest, the ones in public housing, those who may lack proper documentation, those who speak something other than English. The ones most likely to fall through the gaps. There is a particular need for folks able to speak Arabic and Spanish. This form will let our partner organizations (primarily Flint Rising and the Flint Democracy Defense League) know you're available and keep you aware of the ongoing activities.
- Show up for public demonstrations. Your presence adds bulk to our body and volume to our voice. But please don't show up with an agenda except to participate in what is already going on. Follow us on Facebook, and you'll know what we know about actions and events (woodside church of flint).
- Read, learn and share information. Form book groups. Print excerpts in newsletters (always credit the author). Discern how you can respond as advocates of the gospel. Below is a starting point. Some are short enough for a Sunday morning forum; others are full-length books, well worth your time.
- Be aware of your own privilege. (A really good approach for whatever situation you want to help with.)
- People in Flint are going through a lot, emotionally as well as logistically. We're angry, confused, frustrated, hopeful, exhausted, afraid, worried. Sometimes we simply cannot muster gratitude as well. Please believe that we appreciate being in community, and give us a break when we don't say thanks. (So, let me say thank you now. It matters to be part of a larger church that wants to do the righteous thing, part of a larger community that wants to be in solidarity.)
- Please don't just show up and ask us to re-arrange our days to accommodate you.
- Please email (rather than phone) your willingness to help, and be patient if we don't respond quickly enough.
- Please don't send us things we didn't ask for and can't use. Money is easiest, because it lets us respond to the ever-shifting reality here. Choose a church or charity you trust, and send them as much money as you can.
- Please don't put conditions on your gifts.
- Please don't judge our ideas or contradict our requests. We are in constant communication with folks who know, and we are pretty sure we have a handle on what is needed.
- Consider the difference between justice and charity. Charity is about donations (like water and money), but justice is about building relationships, hearing the voices from the community, and changing the systems that got us into this in the first place. Which leads us to...
- Advocate. There are three demands that all the advocacy/activist groups have agreed to put front and center. You can help by contacting elected officials and making whatever noise you can make.
- We need Flint declared a federal disaster area. This will allow us to access a greater pool of resources than the current "emergency" designation.
- We want Medicare expanded to include every resident of Flint, regardless of age. There is precedent for this (google "Libby, Montana"), and it would certainly help us respond to growing health needs. (If you want a glimpse of pastor deb's personal concerns, listen to her address, "I'm having a hard time focusing," linked below.)
- Tell the governor to honor our democracy! While we have a mayor who is at the table in some ways, we are still governed by an emergency transitional administrator. Not good enough! The Emergency Manager law needs to be repealed, so that cities across Michigan can have their self-governance restored.
Further, if there is anything to be gained from this public emergency, (and that's not to say we should blithely "look on the bright side"), it should first be gained by the people enduring the hardship:
- We need people to staff distribution centers and field phone calls. Tell leaders that chunks of that emergency money should be used to hire unemployed Flint residents to do these vitals tasks.
- We need new infrastructure. And even as we begin to replace the pipes, we know there are many related things to be done, like organizing 45,000 index cards that show us where the lead pipes may be. Tell leaders to hire and train local residents for these long-term projects.
- Some national voices are demanding the state hire young people for canvassing and other tasks. But we have 25 percent unemployment here; a lot of people could use a living wage!
- Vote, and let your elected officials know that you're basing your ballot on a renewed commitment to the Common Good!
choose how to spend your money.
It's not an overreaction to consider a boycott of Nestle, massively wealthy in part by sucking up public water at little or no cost, and selling it back in small bottles under about 70 brand names. Reclaim public resources for the public!
- Here's to Flint, a documentary on the water crisis, produced by the ACLU's Curt Guyette and Kate Levy. (45 minutes)
task force report
The Flint Water Advisory Task Force was appointed by Gov Snyder to investigate the circumstances surrounding the poisoning of Flint's water. The task force completed its investigation and published its report in March 2016.
- Flint water crisis has physical and psychological impact
- The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos, Karen Piper, 2014.
- Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis, Andrew Highsmith, 2015.
As long as you're in a reading mood
deb's related sermons, blogs and editorials
- i'm having a hard time focusing. is it the water? (23 April 2016, festival of faiths, Edgewood United Church, East Lansing.)
- tracking the red bug: flint, water and the rest of us. (19 feb 2016, speaking at First Congregational Church, Saginaw, MI)
- jan 21 2016: bigger than water
- jan 28, 2016: i don't have time to make you feel good
- july 17, 2015:
- the good stuff (a sermon on the wedding at cana, 17 jan 2016, woodside)
- ...and other sermons (in audio)
and a webinar
- responding to crisis in Flint, by the Center for Progressive Renewal,
with Pastor Deb and Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC Minister for Environmental Justice