On Sunday, April 3 residents of Earth House organized a brunch fundraiser to raise money for residents of Flint, Mich. Among the delicious items for sale included plain pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, an assortment of toppings, and sliced oranges and grapefruit. The idea for hosting a brunch event came up during a Earth House dinner.
“We were having house dinner and we were talking about events we would like to have and I was like ‘Yo guys we are Earth House and we are committed to environmentalism, environmental sustainability, environmental issues and learning about them,’” Kafilah Muhammad ’18 said. “There’s this thing that’s happening in Flint, Michigan where people don’t have clean water. It’s been happening for a while, and now that it’s much more publicized we should do something because we do have the privilege of having clean water and a whole bunch of other amenities that the people of Flint don’t have because most of the people affected by this water crisis are low income.’ Our house talked about it and we decided to [have] a fundraiser.”
“We did it for two reasons,” said Lucy Salwen ’17. “One, to raise money [for] organizations working with Flint, Michigan residents and the other thing was an for an awareness spreading event just because it is an issue that a lot of people don’t know about, which is part of the problem.”
Earth House residents donated money to HelpforFlint, an organization that is committed to adding additional credit to the 30 million dollar Water Relief Bill for Flint, Mich.
“We raised about 250 dollars through brunch and raised another 200 dollars from just donations,” Muhammad said. “We donated all that money to different organizations that basically go around Flint and deliver clean water to people and give water filters, help fund research for medicine, and that just helps people affected by the water crisis.”
Despite the national coverage the water crisis in Flint received, there are many people on campus who had not heard of the conditions Flint residents were living in. The fundraiser was a great opportunity to spread awareness about the crisis.
In addition to the raising money for Flint and spreading awareness about the water contamination issue, the brunch was also an event that brought the community together for a good cause.
“It was really festive in here” Salwen said. “People were hanging in the living room and eating and talking. So that was nice as a community building event because we could kind of feel the community coming together. Also, some residents also stood outside on the corner and invited people to come in and a lot of people did come in.”
Salwen added that this was a beneficial opportunity for many individuals.
“A lot of people didn’t know what the issue was at Flint, Michigan and that was a really great opportunity to spread information,” Salwen said. “It was really nice that we had it through Venmo too, so that was really helpful because a lot of people didn’t have cash with them but they were willing to give money through Venmo. Also, a lot of people were walking back [from] WesWings so they already had the food situation figured out, but they were happy to throw a few bucks, even people who didn’t come to the event.”
A group of students are indirectly contributing toward raising awareness about the broader range of environmental justice issues by working hard to offer an environmental justice course in the next academic year.
“I [am]…meeting…with students who are interested in leading a forum on environmental justice for next semester,” Cassia Patel ’16 said. “We are still working on finding a professor to teach that course for the following semester. In the works, we have the hiring of the AFAM professor who would be able to dedicate at least once a year to teaching this environmental justice course hopefully starting by Fall 2017. We are gathering material from professors who have taught the course in the past, including Professor Suzanne O’Connell and Professor Dorceta Taylor for their recommendations.”
The group also invited Talia Buford, an investigative journalist who has extensively covered the Flint water to speak on the issue.
“She had dinner with students, many of the same students who were at the Dorceta Taylor workshop, and then had to give a presentation,” Patel said. “A lot of her talk was focused on Flint, Michigan. She is an investigative journalist, so she was looking into the EPA and looking into certain cases where the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act—which is that there can’t be any racial discrimination within an organization receiving federal funding.”
Buford has investigated cases where Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not upheld. In addition to an investigation regarding Flint, Mich. water contamination issue, Buford also investigated a case where a hazardous waste plant was placed in a predominantly Spanish-speaking community. Residents in the community filed an official complaint to the EPA, but delayed action from the agency left the issue largely unresolved.
“She went really into depth there, looking into all the records and following up now at how the issue is being addressed and what steps are being taken,” Patel said.
When speaking about environmental justice issues, it is important to note the people who are most vulnerable to these issues.
“I just think it’s important for people to attend as many events that they can to start to develop their own knowledge,” said Victoria King ’18. “Then, also [it is important to read] articles…so people can begin to learn the language, to get nuggets of information, that they can bring back to their own communities so that the people who are actually living the daily experiences also feel more empowered to speak out and start to combat it in many different ways.”