Dallas Cowboys’ Brandon Carr Tackles Water Issue In Hometown Of Flint, Michigan.
By Shana Renee Stephenson, Contributor

Flint, Michigan native, Brendon Carr spends his offseason giving back to the community that raised him. (Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports)

The scene depicted in the above tweet was Flint, Michigan one year ago on World Water Day. In the following months, this protest of 20 people evolved into an issue that put the entire country on alert as lead seeped into the community’s drinking water and residents fell ill and some died. To commemorate World Water Day, a day to learn more about water related issues around the globe, I talked to Brandon Carr, Flint native and Dallas Cowboys cornerback, for his point of view on the current situation in his hometown.

Shana Renee Stephenson: A year ago, Flint citizens protested the conditions of the water on this global holiday. What does it mean to you that a year later, people are suffering from the same conditions?

Brandon Carr: It means a lot because knowing that it’s the city I grew up in, I spent so many great years…a good portion of my life here and they’re going through these tough times. When I first learned the news, it was disheartening. Once I found out the facts, you know, just started gathering facts, it became devastating to me, just how serious the issue was. And then talking to my family who still lives here and has to go through this on a daily. And then, like you said, a year later, we’re still fighting to make sure we have safe drinking water for the residents of Flint, but especially for our children who are going to be affected the most by this situation that’s at hand.

SS: Is Flint any better off than it was a year ago at this time?

BC: I think we’re better off in a sense that we’ve gained national attention now. The world and our country have supported us. We’ve received support from all over the country. All types of influential figureheads have stopped in and roamed the streets and met the mayor, so that’s been a big help for us. Just to keep us alive and spreading the awareness. But we still need a solution to this problem. And we’re also continuing to still look for funding to fix this problem in hopefully a timely manner.

SS: What do you think it would take for the world to hear Flint’s cries about the water conditions?

BC: It’s honestly going to take us being consistent and persistent. We have to continue to talk about the issue. Continue to spread awareness. Like I said, it’s a problem that’s not going anywhere. The city, they’ve had this problem for the last two years now. It’s an ongoing process, and we’re just trying to find ways to mitigate the problem. We’re trying to find solutions. But also, it’s going to take us keeping everybody in the loop on what’s going on, keeping them abreast of our progress.

SS: For those who might not be familiar with some of the long term effects that lead poisoning can have on children, do you mind explaining that a little bit?

BC: From the mental aspects … mental illnesses, there’s an increased risk for cognitive, behavioral problems in their development. Neuro(logical) and psychological functioning. So it’s some big factors, some big risks for our children. The livelihood of our future is being threatened right now, so that’s why we’re asking our nation and our government to continue to help us and to start to help us in funding so we can use some of those resources to try and get the ball rolling and try to mitigate this problem as fast as we can.

SS: How have your family and friends with children been coping on a daily basis?

BC: Everything is bottled water. You have to constantly remind yourself, in terms of brushing your teeth and things of that nature. Even myself when I’m home, it’s an inconvenience right now, but I’m just here temporarily. And you have to think about the people who have been living here for the last two years and who are going to live here for years to come. You just have to live off of bottled water, you know how much of an inconvenience that is. That’s why I said, we’re just trying to push to get some things going so we can kind of cut the time in half and get this problem solved throughout our whole entire city.

SS: Are you in Flint right now? Do you spend your offseason in Flint?

BC: I’m in Flint for this week. I come back as much as I can. I have three reading oases and three elementaries here, so I’m here checking up on them. And also, I’m going to be distributing water. I’m doing some things with the United Way this week. I’m meeting with the doctor that actually discovered, that brought this issue to light, Dr. Mona [Hanna-Attisha], I’m going to meet with her this afternoon actually. I’m going to meet with the Flint Foundation this week. I met with the mayor yesterday. So I’m just in town making my rounds and trying to gather as many facts as I can to figure out how can we help moving forward and what are some ways we can spread awareness to get help from outside resources.

SS: During the season you were removed from the issue, but since you’re in Flint, can you tell me how the water crisis has personally affected you?

BC: I’m aware of the situation so everywhere I’m going, any establishment, I’m asking, “Is the water safe to use?” I don’t really have a blueprint on what’s safe and what’s not around the area, so it’s just always checking to make sure you’re in an environment to hopefully get some clean, safe water. It’s just been a hassle to always try and find bottled water or always using bottled water for everything.

SS: How can people get involved?

BC: You can get involved many of ways. Of course, people are always still donating water from across the nation. Truckloads are still coming in. We just want to keep that an ongoing process. And also, there are different funds set up — FlintKids.org is a website that you can go to. And there are many donor advisory funds that you can check up on and see where your fit is and where there is the most need. I’m big on our youth and our future. I have a fund set up under Carr Cares within that website that’s tailored towards our youth’s future as far as any health resources, health prevention, literacy components to help our youth on how to fight this within their own daily lifestyle living.

SS: Yes, let’s talk about your Carr Cares Foundation. I saw that it was reported that you donated $100K to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint to create the Carr Cares Fund for Flint foundation, and also donated $10K to help with replacing pipes and plumbing. Why was it so important for you to get involved in such a major way?

BC: This is my city. I am a product of my environment. I once was a Flint kid. I know that a lot of amazing talent is continually being produced in our city despite all of the negativity that’s surrounding it. We have some great people who have emerged from the streets of Flint and that’s my effort of giving back, just to try to mitigate the problem and what’s going on. But like I said, I’m just geared toward helping the children with the short term and long term effects. We don’t really have a timeline and I haven’t gotten the ball really rolling on getting this problem fixed, so it’s an ongoing process.

SS: With the national attention and resource struggles have you noticed a shift in the spirit and attitude of Flint residents?

BC: I just see a bunch of people taking pride in their own communities. Pulling together. People just using their brains and using resources. Just whether it’s the aftermath of the bottled water, which is the recycling process. We have people stepping up with efforts to collect the plastic to recycle it. So people are being very resourceful in still trying to protect our citizens and our environment as well.

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