Note: The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent The K.I.N.G. Movement or its supporters. They are the views of the author alone.
It was March of 2014, and spring was approaching in Flint, MI--when my family and I agreed to hand a small scrappy–now healthy–church I pastored for two and a half years over to the elders who were ready to lead the church. Our new destination of pioneering work would be Phoenix, AZ, as we agreed to be part of a fresh horizon in the music industry and ministry out west. Our decision was met with tears of joy amongst friends. However, while we were packing up our rustic house nestled in a historic neighborhood, 10 minutes walk from downtown Flint, partaking in farewell dinners and saying our last goodbyes, another decision was in motion to take effect April 25, 2014, which would change the course of the city as the world knew it. This decision on record would go back to a signed document on June 26 2013–put in action by an emergency manager, a Chief Legal Officer, and Finance Director–to switch the water supply from Detroit to the Flint River; a decision that would not be celebrated by all, but mourned, and still is 1,000 days later. This decision would cause damaging effects in many children, adults, teachers, leaders, and lifelong residents; a decision that would see lead in the drinking water high enough to consider it toxic and not worthy to be consumed. In an interview with The Nightly Show, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha said “when Pediatricians hear about led in the water we kind of freak out, it is an irreversible neurotoxin, you don’t mess with lead, you don’t mess with kids.”
The nation is going on three years being removed from a crisis, which was called a state of emergency by current Flint mayor Karen Weaver. Three years removed from the decision to switch over the water supply, two years removed from the initial 18 months of slow response and silencing those who sounded scientific alarms. Instead of flooding the Internet with yet another post asking who is the blame and calling out leaders for their cavalier and career moves, I want to take the angle of why I am speaking up and hitching my wagon to a crisis now forgotten about and still not resolved.
On January 15th, 2017 I returned a call from one of the deacons I served with while in Flint, MI, Kevin Wallace. We love each other; every time we talk it is like we never missed a step. As we talked about kids, work, health, and the topics that make you realize you are aging, the Flint water topic came up from my prompting. I assumed he would answer with, “things have been crazy, were crazy, but thankfully they are resolved now” however, that was not the response. I was met with “we are still drinking from bottled waters, still have to risk bathing in the water that is not lead free, still have to use copious amounts of bottled water to cook and clean with, we have to take my youngest to a specialist to see if the water has affected him, we are still drinking and paying for ‘dirty water’. After I left that conversation, close to two hours, reflecting on the scriptures around Matthew 25 and the talents, and the question “what I have done since leaving?” I was flooded with the REAL answer nothing.
Be it happy to get out of Flint before things hit the fan, be it the cliché “grateful” that you spared my family God. Sure, I had follow up conversations calls with those I loved, checked on the church like a ‘good leader’ is supposed to. I tweeted and re-tweeted--but like others, it was out of sight out of mind because it didn’t affect my family directly and it didn’t seem as bad as it appeared--as I nonchalantly kept up with the issue from a distance. I dropped the ball to love and bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ. I didn’t remember those in prison as if I were there as Paul said (and families, kids, elderly are in an injustice water crisis prison).
So why am I hitching my wagon to Flint now? Because I love Kevin, I love those who I assumed would be taken care of, I love those who I moved on from and in the words of Cornell West, “love is what justice looks like in public”. I am hitching my wagon to Flint now because, I would want someone to do the same if I was stuck. I also believe God gave me a gift, a talent in sovereignty, a privilege to get out, family to remain healthy and I do not believe it was to simply say thank you to God in prayer and not leverage the health and clarity I have to fight for others stuck in a situation of injustice. Kids I once held are now suffering from irreversible effects; guys I played basketball with are now disabled because of this water decision. What’s odd about it all is that I sat under two emergency managers Ed Kurtz and Michael Brown as part of a financial and vision advisory council from 2011-2013 and never was switching to the Flint River an option.
1000 days has passed, really more, since the decision to switch over the water supply to the Flint River which, while I lived in Flint, reeked of a bio hazardous smell, colored with a brown chocolate water tint beyond mud. Then and now it is beyond me how anyone with a conscience, thinking people before money, thought switching to the Flint River was the best decision. Why am I hitching my heart to those in Flint, because sometimes moving forward is looking back.
Adam is an itinerant presenter, lecturer, spoken word artist, and doctoral candidate. A.T. has spoken in over 12 countries - including Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, Greece and Palestine - conveying the peace of Jesus. A native of Detroit, Michigan, A.T. has made it through adverse circumstances, be it violence, broken homes, racial discrimination and more. A.T. has more than 17 years of experience as it pertains to preaching and teaching the peace of Jesus in ethnically-divided countries, cultures, sub-cultures and relationships. Follow A.T. on Twitter @revdrev (@revdrev)