Feeling Flint: The Beginning

After Mike was murdered, I’ll never forget so desperately wanting to go Ferguson. It was October 2014 and I found myself calling my ex-boyfriend to see if he wanted to ride with me from Chicago to Ferguson. It was under a four hour drive.

I had a grand plan of flying from DC to Chicago then renting a car to head into the thick of the protesting battle lines. I suspected that flights into St. Louis were made particularly high for nothing short of a conspiracy.

It was to no avail though — he did not want to go and I could not afford to make the entire journey by myself. So, I sent about three dozens shirts instead. If I could not physically be there, I wanted to make some sort of contribution to the struggle.

About fives week ago, my church announced that it’d be sending teams of people to Flint to help with relief efforts.

I. had. to. go.

As soon as the application link came out, I filled it out and immediately followed up with Minister Norfleet, head of the Missions Ministry. I prayed, “Pleaaaaaase, Lawd, please — let me be selected to go!”

About a week ago, the Lord (in so many words) said, “Go on girl, you’re going.” I’d been selected along with a team of seven others, to be the final team to go to Flint. I was ecstatic.

When our flight touched down in Detroit yesterday, there was an eery quietness about the airport. Having never been to Detroit before, I couldn’t tell if this normal for a Monday. When we got to the rental car counter, I stepped away to use the bathroom. I noticed a fridge that looked as if ordinarily it would be filled with soda, filled with water. The rest of the case of bottled water sat next to it on the floor.

“Hm,” I thought. I almost felt guilty taking a bottle for myself.

“You will get to a point when you feel like you haven’t done enough.”

The words of our team lead, Vernon, lingered in my ears. He’d been apart of the first team to go back in February and was back again.

At dinner, one of our team members said it felt as if people were pretending as if nothing was going on. When we walked into Outback, I was struck by an empty water cooler next to an assembly of glasses with a placard sitting atop them that said, “CLEAN”. My brain thought of the story of lepers in the Bible.

To be declared unclean because of leprosy meant that the unfortunate person had to tear his clothes and put a covering upon his upper lip and cry, ‘unclean, unclean’,” wrote Dr. Hendrick in The Miracle of Jesus.

To be a leper is also defined as, “A person who is avoided or rejected by others for moral or social reasons”.

Are the people of Flint the lepers of the new millennium? What will become of the generation of babies exposed to lead poisoning? To those suffering from Legionnaires’ disease?

Today is my first day on the ground. Last night, using the term, “boots on the ground,” was contested by one team member because he said it’s a war term. We pushed back and said it does feel as if it is a war zone. A war on Black bodies. A war on poverty. In 2016.

The people of Flint are fighting for their lives for the rest of their lives.