On Saturday, Feb. 7, we spoke with Darlene of Flint, Michigan. She is a lifelong resident of Flint.
Across the road, members of several high school robotics teams were unloading water they collected in their local communities—including Oxford, Sterling Heights, Armada, and Howell. Here is our interview with event co-organizer Kristen.
After talking to Kristen, we spotted Darlene observing from across the street and asked if she wouldn’t mind talking to us. Here’s what she had to say.
How long have you lived in Flint?
Darlene: All my life.
Your whole life?
Darlene: I was born and raised here. Right here.
You must have seen a lot of changes over the course of your life.
Darlene: Yeah. Oh, yes. A lot.
How long have you lived in this house?
Darlene: This house? It was my grandmother’s house, and she got it when it was first built in 1967. When she passed my mother had it. When she passed, now I’m in it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your neighborhood, what your neighborhood’s like here?
Darlene: Oh, this neighborhood—even the church—when it was first built it was just a one-room church right there on the corner. Now they’ve progressed this far, and the neighborhood … Basically everybody seems to get along with everybody, as far as being the neighborhood watch out. We do watch out for each other on this street—because if you notice it’s only one line of houses—and then we have the church over there. Basically, I enjoy staying here. I do. I mean, I’ve been here all my life. Once you have something, and your mother leaves it, and your grandmother leaves it, you’re not going anywhere, so I’m not going anywhere right now.
I don’t know what they going to do about the water crisis, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to deal with it. As far as cooking I use the water that we get. They leave water here, and I go get water. I don’t use the tap water. I have to use it to wash up with. I get the water as hot as I can, but as far as cooking and basic washing up, I use [bottled] water. I heat it up, cook with it, wash my dishes with it, because I don’t trust the pipe water so far.
Have you had your home tested for lead?
Darlene: I took in the bottle, the jug testing. So far I haven’t heard anything back.
How long has it been?
Darlene: It’s been about two weeks ago. I haven’t heard anything back yet.
My understanding—I’m not sure if this is correct or not—is that if there’s a problem with your water, they’ll call you back within three days.
Darlene: Yeah. I haven’t heard anything. Basically I look at the fact that I’m on the outskirts of Flint. I’m not in the city of Flint. My water … Like I said, I don’t drink it, but I haven’t seen any change of colors. I haven’t smelt anything different in the water. Like I said, I’m not taking any chances right now, because I don’t know. I’m dealing with the water that they bring in.
Are you a member of the church across the road?
Darlene: Not a active member, but I’m a member. Not going every Sunday or nothing like that, but if that’s the case, I’ve been a member ever since it was a one room church. I was going there when the first pastor founded this church. I was going there as a kid. I grew up basically with his kids. The church, my mother, my grandmother—it’s like our home. It is our home.
You didn’t notice any differences when the switch happened from the Detroit water to the Flint water? You didn’t notice anything?
Are you using a filter for your house?
Darlene: Yes. I have a filter.
How did you find the process of setting up the filter and everything like that?
Darlene: Well, I went down to the GCCARD building downtown in Flint. They gave out filters earlier when they first started this. Basically, they just told me what to do, and I hooked it up to the faucet. It doesn’t fit on my kitchen faucet. It fits in my utility faucet. Basically, if I did want to wash meats and stuff, I use that water. Turn it on there and just use that. Like I said, basically for my dishes and stuff, since I’m right there in the sink, and I have the water stacked up right there, I take it, dump it out, heat it up, wash … Take the other ones and rinse off with it. That’s all. It’s almost like living back without plumbing, but you got to do what you got to do. At least I still got the toilet. I can use that. [Laughter]
Like I said, I’m concerned about it, like I said, if there was so much lead in it … Me, I do have to take showers. I have to wash up. I have to take a shower, so I use that water. Like I said, I do get it hot as I can stand it, and I use bacteria soap. I haven’t had any break outs. I don’t know if it’s for older people, or if they’re looking at younger kids using it.
You haven’t noticed any health effects?
Darlene: No. So far, no.
Has the Red Cross been around your neighborhood? Have they been going door to door?
Darlene: I haven’t seen them if they have. I work second shift, but I’m here in the mornings and at least up until 3:00. So far, no Red Cross has came.
How do you feel overall about the way that the state’s responded? Do you feel like they’ve done enough for the community here?
Darlene: Yeah, but I’m not going to lie to you. It’s always you could do more. It’s always more anybody could do. So far, as far as them people coming, I’ve met people from Columbus. I went to the gas station. A guy pulled up and loaded my car with water. Then, it’s just meeting different people, and seeing the community, and different people coming out from everywhere just to help out. You know that’s God-sent right there. Basically, we doing everything we can, and all anybody can say is, “Thank you. To God and to y’all for helping out, for the young kids coming.”
I’m like, “Man. How come I didn’t think to get some hamburgers, have some hamburgers cooking?” That’s why I was standing out here looking. I’m like, “Man. Look at this. This is people helping people.” Me, personally, I appreciate it. I do. I thank God every day.
How do you feel your story compares to other people that you’ve spoken to, with regards to the water crisis?
Darlene: A lot of people are real concerned. Basically it’s the same … You have to look at [what] they said in 2013. In reality—I’m going to be honest with you—we don’t really know. They just put that “13” there. How do I know? I might have lead, but not as much as some other places in the inner city part of Flint.
Yeah. That’s true.
Darlene: I’m blessed with what I got. I’m just hoping nobody really falls to the point where something really drastic happen because of this. We’ve already got some kids breaking out. Some said, “A lot of kids have lead in them.” Hopefully they can come to a resolution where all of this here can cease. So far, all you can do is, like y’all guys are doing, helping. People helping people. That’s all we can do, and just pray that nothing drastic happens, and hope we can come out of this.