In Flint, residents will be dealing with the devastating health consequences of lead exposure for decades. On an emotional level, it is profoundly disorienting and deeply traumatic when your water - the most crucial element to preserve life - is contaminated. On top of that, this water crisis is a fundamental betrayal of the social contract between citizens and government
Throughout the development of this crisis, Flint residents were lied to again and again, and were subjected to a relentless strategy of gaslighting. Although lead levels in the Flint water system continue to gradually improve, residents are understandably hesitant to trust the water from their taps, and many have vowed never to use tap water again. As you can imagine, the use of bottled water as a primary source has a negative environmental impact. And if residents do not use their tap water, the municipal system will not function as it should because municipal water systems require flowing water (regular use).
We know that Flint is not alone in its water woes. Many communities in the US have dealt with or are dealing with the trauma of unsafe drinking water. As our country’s infrastructure ages, there will no doubt be more water crises, and we’ve unfortunately learned that we cannot necessarily count on an appropriate, speedy, or compassionate response from our leaders.
This month Pantsuit Nation is partnering with Crossing Water, a high impact nonprofit providing services to Flint residents, to increase awareness about the ongoing water crisis.
Please watch and share Michael's video and consider supporting the efforts of Crossing Water. Even $5 makes a difference.
Video produced by Pantsuit Nation members Lee Fearnside and Holly Hey in partnership with Pantsuit Nation's Story+Action team.
Eight months ago, I created Pantsuit Nation on a whim — not as a political strategist with an agenda, but as a Hillary supporter, a mother, and an educator from rural Maine who was looking for a community of people with shared values and hope for the future of this country. So much has happened since then, and I’m incredibly proud of how this community has stepped up in the aftermath of the election to resist the current administration. Along with my amazing team of volunteer moderators and admins, I remain firmly committed to our mission of creating social and political change through personal narrative. Your stories matter. They influence. They create a ripple effect.
You have called your elected representatives. You have donated. You have marched. You have supported one another in ways that can’t be quantified but that are at the heart of the progressive movement. You have connected online and off, with resources and with love and with persistence in the face of bigotry and hate.
We believe that Pantsuit Nation has the potential to be on the leading edge of a cultural shift in our current political climate, where instead of pundits and analysts talking over and beyond our everyday, lived experiences, we are talking to and listening to one another. Together, we can understand the systemic racism that poisons our country’s efforts at true social justice — not just through statistics and headlines, but through the voices of those who experience it daily. Together, we can see how changes in health care policy affect our lives, not just in large, abstract numbers like 23 million Americans, but on an individual, human scale. Together, we can join with millions of other people around the country and the world to stand up for each other to have the right to love whom we want, to make choices for our own bodies, to demand accountability from our government, to use the privileges we have to fight on behalf of those who lack them. Pantsuit Nation members are standing up in so many ways — running for office, creating and participating in social and political movements within your communities, calling out oppression and calling in allies to make a difference. And those individual actions, shifts in understanding, and commitments to change are our best shot at influencing the outcome of future elections. We know that stories move people to act. They are the WHY. And we are doing everything we can, from our modest (and, ok, pretty random) beginnings as a Facebook group intended to inspire people to wear pantsuits to the polls to become a sustainable, organized force for good.
I’m thrilled to announce today that Pantsuit Nation has hired our longtime volunteer admins Cortney Tunis and Cat Plein as our Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, respectively. Their positions have been made possible, in part, by a grant by New Media Ventures supporting organizations that are working at the intersection of technology, media, and politics. We’re honored to be included in their portfolio along with 13 other organizations including Sister District, flippable, Swing Left, Indivisible Guide, Mijente, Town Hall Project, and Stay Woke. Cortney and Cat will continue to work with other progressive organizations to bolster calls to action through personal narrative, to develop our archive of public stories shared with permission as a resource for advocates, educators, and activists, and to grow our community beyond a secret Facebook group.
Sometimes 8 months seems like an impossibly long time (just ask my husband, who has taken on the bulk of caring for our two young children and doing everything he can to support our household while I spend nearly every free minute on all things Pantsuit Nation). But in truth, we are at the very beginning of what I know will be a long surge of united effort to bring positive social and political change to our country.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing your stories and for listening with intention and heart to the stories shared in this space. Thank you for acting in ways large and small.
For more information about Pantsuit Nation and to support the work we do, please like our Facebook Page, sign up for our newsletter, and consider purchasing a copy of our book, all proceeds of which go to supporting this community.
Photos by Julie Lippert and Christina Gandolfo.
Pantsuit Nation is proud to partner with Crossing Water to bring you the first in a 3-part series of short films about the crisis in Flint, produced by Holly Hey and Lee Fearnside.
What you need to know:
In 2014, the government of Flint, Michigan, stopped buying water from Chicago and began to source from the nearby Flint River. Because an EPA-mandated pretreatment that would have cost the city ~$100/day was not implemented, the salts in the new water supply corroded and damaged the city’s water pipes, causing them to leach lead and other metals into the drinking water. Flint residents noticed a difference in water quality and expressed concerns. Even though General Motors had stopped using Flint water in order to protect against damage to its machines, and the government began providing bottled water for its employees, the city continued to assure citizens that the water was safe to drink.
The federal maximum standard for lead is 15 ppb. In Flint, independent testing saw lead levels as high as 13,200 ppb. Flint’s government tried to discredit this independent testing and in time, it was revealed that the city itself was not following proper testing procedures.
Today, 600 out of 29,000 lead pipes in the system have been replaced. The pipes that remain continue to leach lead into the water. Thousands of households still have unusable tap water and rely on bottled water for cooking, cleaning, drinking, and bathing. High levels of lead in the bloodstream can cause permanent behavioral issues and intellectual disabilities, especially in children. More than half of Flint’s residents are black. Flint is surrounded by communities that are 90% white. The surrounding communities were not impacted.
How you can help:
Crossing Water, a non-profit organization founded in early 2016, formed in order to help those most affected by this crisis. Crossing Water works to ensure that all residents have access to safe drinking water and information on how to access and utilize resources that are available to them.
Crossing Water developed and deploys Rapid Response Service Teams (RRST) in Flint to ensure that the most vulnerable individuals and families get the critical assistance and relief they need. The teams are led by social workers and supported by EMTs, RNs, plumbers, and other volunteers.
Volunteers are given intensive training and RRST teams document all field visits and debrief on their experiences. These teams provide necessary supplies and much needed support to Flint families. This support may include installing new faucets and faucet filters and teaching families to to replace filters. Volunteers also bring bottled water, tools, clothing, and other supplies in order to be ready to provide the residents what they need.
To date, Crossing Water volunteers have visited over 568 families, made over 1,000 home visits, and distributed well over 20,000 gallons of water. They have become a trusted community resource and residents who are familiar with their work often refer their services to others in need. Crossing Water focuses much of their work on families with children, babies, pregnant women, homebound individuals, and others with special needs.
To support Crossing Water, please consider donating:
$10 provides a case of water or a replacement filter cartridge
$25 buys a faucet filter
$30 buys a new faucet
$280 provides one week’s worth of water for a family of 4
$395 funds a RRST visit, faucet, filter, extra cartridge, and water for a week
If you are not in a position to contribute financially, please consider sharing this video and the donation link on Facebook or Twitter.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.