I don’t need to tell you that the world is no longer watching Flint. You already know that. While some progress has been made in the water quality levels, and some are heralding that the end is in sight, this is hardly “situation normal.”
Imagine if we wake up tomorrow with perfectly clean water. And, while we’re following that train of thought, let’s imagine that the water doesn’t cost more than almost every other city in the country.
That still leaves you with struggling schools.
That still leaves you with a city suffering from 42 percent poverty.
That still leaves you with one of the worst violent crime rates in the United States.
As the world looks away, the real heroes are becoming clear. They are people like Alexandra, a woman from Chicago who has done more for the people of Flint in the last five months than most Flintstonians.
Like many others, she felt moved to action when she heard about undocumented Flint residents who were being denied service at the water distribution centers set up by the National Guard. After calling around, she heard about Crossing Water.
“I started calling social services in Michigan,” Alexandra recalls. “No one had a clue, and—to be honest—no one sounded like they cared. I reached out to a gentleman who I encountered at a rally in Chicago and we decided to come to Flint. After about a day or so, he reached out to me and shared someone told him about a man in Flint who was doing great work and his name was Michael Hood and so we called, left messages and headed to Flint to meet Michael.”
She wasn’t prepared for what she found.
“The city looked like a bad war movie. It was so dark, no sign of life in the homes, blocks, and neighborhoods … I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Even when the sun was shining, it was dark.”
In the basement of St. Michael’s, Alexandra—who more often goes by Lexi—met with Michael and his partner Laurie, who “gave a great informational orientation and provided training on filter installation, water distribution, and ethics—along with confidentiality training. I was truly impressed with the organization of their program.”
Apart from a break in June, Lexi has been here on an almost weekly basis since that first visit in March.
Lexi’s normal 9 to 5, which in fact extends far beyond those hours, is at Project VIDA in Chicago, an organization working to provide “direct services for people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and various prevention and health education programs” including hep C and other STIs.
“Yes, I am busy,” says Lexi, “but I truly appreciate the eight-hour drive to Flint.”
In addition to using her time on the road to recharge, Lexi restores herself listening to music and surrounding herself with the right people.
“I’m intentional with the people I surround myself with who build me up and understand my purpose.”
There’s nothing more important than self-care for those who care so deeply for a long-disenfranchised population.
“Most are paralyzed in fear,” says Lexi. “They’re displaying a lot of signs of trauma, depression, anger, mistrust … you name it. Some are just numb and look with blank stares and just look like they’re waiting for the end.
“A few are accepting the circumstances beyond their control, because the government has been this way as far as they know and they express they don’t have a choice, and they’re stuck in Flint. A few find joy in helping their neighbor, so they share all supplies and identify homebound individuals that may not have friends or relatives helping them.”
Lexi knows how important it is to remain committed in the fight for Flint.
“I’ve witnessed the effects of people living in poverty and how we can lose our way by formidable circumstances and … the behaviors that come with, like self-medicating and violence.”
Lexi is planning her upcoming birthday around a trip to Flint on Saturday, September 3.
“I normally celebrate my birthday at a shelter where I bring a birthday cake and dinner. This year, I want to come to Flint and do the same but on a larger scale.
“I’ve asked individuals to accompany me to volunteer, donate school supplies to all the children in Flint. I’m thinking a big BBQ where we all can share hot dogs, hamburgers, and cupcakes. In my mind, it made sense—so I’m determined.”