I'm going to say something right now that a lot of people aren't going to like, but I hope that you will give me a chance to understand where I'm coming from.
First and foremost, thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who came from all across the country this weekend with good intentions simply to donate water to the people of Flint. We appreciate you, we appreciate your donations, your time, and your effort. We need people like you keeping us in the spotlight for the right reasons. Thank you, sincerely.
However, what we don't need are outsiders pandering to us, threatening us, miscategorizing us, coming in uninformed or incorrectly informed, and taking our agency from us. We, the people of Flint, have our own voices, and we've been using them. We've used them locally, we've used them in the State Capitol, we've used them in Washington, D.C. We're still using them. Some are more vocal than others but some of us know that this isn't about who shouts the loudest and waits for change to happen, it's about speaking within the appropriate channels using methods that get real results. We, the people of Flint, don't need your voices to speak FOR us. We need your voices to combine with and amplify ours, to support our movements, to understand us, and to let US tell YOU what we need.
What we don't need are people who see us as something less than people. People who paint us as feral, untrusting, lawless animals who want to harm the ones who are helping us. That's what outsiders are being told. Allegedly, our local police and local volunteers have told people that they need to be armed and protected from the people in Flint. People from all over the country came, openly carrying high powered rifles to protect themselves against US. Let that sink in for a moment. Now ask yourself if that's what activists for the people do.
Because of the reported violence here, out-of-towners felt unsafe in our "sketchy" neighborhoods. We, the people of Flint, live in these neighborhoods. We, the people of Flint, work in these neighborhoods, go to school in these neighborhoods, and do everything that "normal" people do in these neighborhoods. Yes, we have crime. We have drugs. We have murders. Community activists go out every day in these neighborhoods, unarmed, delivering food and water to the very same people these guests in our city felt they needed protection from. There has never been even one reported shooting or robbery of unarmed people walking through those "sketchy" neighborhoods delivering water door-to-door.
We, the people of Flint, are strong. We're resilient. We're vocal. If you want to help us, get to know us. Don't weekend warrior in and tell us things we already know, like we need to vote the corrupt and inefficient "leaders" out, or tell us that voting for a certain candidate will magically make everything better. We're smarter than that. Don't make us your pet project, taking selfies with the locals, trespassing on vacant properties so you can share the ugliest photos of our gaping, impoverished, blighted wounds. Don't tell us we need to move away like that's an actual option for everyone.
Instead, show us peace. Greet us with open arms, not guns. Highlight the many good things Flint has going for it and tell everyone you know that Flint is a city worth investing in--investing your time, investing your interest, investing your good will, and investing your money! Bring us jobs! Don't just show up for the media coverage and go away. Help us get back on our feet. Treat us like human beings, just like the ones you have back where you're from.
For those of you who don't know me, I wasn't born here, but my family and I moved here in 1992, and with two brief exceptions I've lived here ever since. Flint is my home. I dropped out of two different high schools here. I went to two different colleges and earned 4 degrees here. I've lived on the North End, the South Side, the East Side. I've ridden the city bus, frequently. I know what the colors on the weather ball mean and I know that the only true coney is a Flint coney. Anything else is just a chili dog.
I've lived in extreme poverty and I'm still poor, working just like everyone else here is to improve our situations. I've dealt with family members addicted to drugs and seen them pawn everything we had that was worth another rock. I've been in places and situations where I've felt unsafe. I have friends who have been victims of crimes, including shootings. I have friends who are police officers. I have friends with licenses to carry concealed weapons, and I respect their rights to do so. This isn't about me being a bleeding heart liberal who wants to take your guns away--I respect your second amendment rights as long as they don't interrupt my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I've organized charity benefits, volunteered in soup kitchens, collected toys for the Whaley kids, you name it. I went to, and just graduated from, law school with hope I can finally put my education to work right here in Flint and give back to the community I love. Not Grand Blanc, not Burton, not Swartz Creek. Flint is my home. Don't tell me you need to carry a weapon to protect yourself against me in my own home.
We, the people of Flint, need to stand united together. We have the same interests. We don't need the media telling us all the activists are fighting and undermining everything we're trying to do. We don't need outsiders coming in to organize for us. We need to put aside our differences, give up this BS about some activists aren't legit because they weren't at your event. We're all fighting the fight. We need to give up the BS about some parts of Flint being better or worse or good or sketchy and realize that all those parts have one thing in common: People who are suffering. Some have more, some have less, some are better or worse off than others, but we're all affected. Let's stand together, support each other, and depend on each other like we always have--and like we will continue to do if and when the spotlight leaves.