Flint Water Crisis Is Bigger Than a Hashtag

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Michigan Live

Flint Water Crisis Is Bigger Than a Hashtag

Flint resident Onquette "Snoop" Woodyard uses soaped-up bottled water on a dish cloth to wipe off ice cream from clothing, skin and the face of her grandson Nasir Blackmon after he ate dessert on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 at their home on Flint's north side. (Photo: Jake May/MLive)

Tiny red rashes and bumps began to pop up on my nephew Nasir's face, stomach, legs and arms surprisingly last winter.

He hadn't turned a year old yet, so my mother and sister repeatedly searched for answers.

They scheduled numerous appointments to local doctors and dermatologists -- who prescribed different creams and medicines -- but nothing seemed to work.

That was until they stopped using the Flint water on his little body completely.

Then voila! The hives disappeared.

Water advisories were starting to surface over the news, so my family took notice. We never thought for one moment that those signs would lead to a national water crisis in the city.

As a native of Flint, it's great to see the city's water issue finally getting the nationwide attention that it deserves. Along with the rest of the world, I'm also disappointed in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for not acting on this issue sooner.

I applaud the celebrities such as Michael Moore, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Big Sean, Meek Mill, Russell Simmons, Cher, Diddy, and so many others for donating waters to the city. We really appreciate it.

However, this issue is bigger than just sending the hashtag: #FlintWaterCrisis. This didn't just start yesterday. It has been going on for well over a year now.

Please don't use this as a marketing tool to get a pat on the back or a zillion likes on social media.

The problem of lead in water is really affecting lives. So before you donate your water, it would be a great idea to get to the root of the problem. Instead of smacking a Band-Aid on the problem by sponsoring water bottles, try to develop a plan to use your money in a more resourceful manner. Don't follow the trend. Be sincere.

I was born in Flint 27 years ago and I owe much of success to my upbringing in this city.

Although I now live in Flint Township, where the water is safe, my one-year-old son Ethan visits my mother in the city's Fifth Ward up to five times per week. She also watches my nephew and five-year-old cousin, D'Varion on a regular basis.

Contrary to popular belief, the water isn't brown in every home. It doesn't smell funny, either.

Everyone in Flint isn't living in an environment similar to a Third World country. Let me make that clear. All of the Internet memes aren't fully accurate.

That makes this issue even scarier, though, because my family's water supply doesn't appear to be contaminated. They still have to wash clothes, brush their teeth, bathe and clean dishes with the filthy water. We just monitor how much we use on the children.

Over a month's period, nearly 200 bottles of water may get used inside my mom and grandmother's home.

"It's a major adjustment," my mother described.

Then after all of that hassle, guess what? Flint residents are being hit with a water bill. The mailman is still delivering that $100-$200 monthly statement. And before this issue really hit the fan, my grandmother was still receiving letters from the city in the summer trying to give assurance that the water wasn't as bad as it seemed.

"We're paying for poison," my mom said.

So please put that in perspective.

Following the media reports doesn't measure up to actually adapting to this disaster. When is the last time you bathed in bottled water? Or brushed your teeth without running the faucet?

"I jump in the shower and jump out," my grandmother explained.

There's still a bunch of health-related things that we don't know. Some of the effects of elevated blood lead levels could hit my family years down the line. I'm just praying that this doesn't come into fruition.

So before you ride the wave of tweeting the #FlintWaterCrisis hashtag or post a photo asking folks to #PrayForFlint on Instagram, don't make these posts to be an attention-getter. Push for a real change.

Flint is not a charity case. The people in this town have lots of pride and we will survive this disaster. We're fighters. Let's not forget that.

How do I know? Because I'm one of those people. Flint made me!

Eric Woodyard

Eric Woodyard is an award-winning sports journalist working at MLive-The Flint Journal. The 27-year-old is a native of Flint that graduated from Southwestern Academy in 2006.

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