Boots on the Ground in Flint, Michigan

Recently, Jay sent me a text telling me that he wanted me to be involved with a “project” he was working on. Jay is the kind of guy that you want to have in your corner – an inspirational, creative, genuine person with a passion for life and his people.

So with that in mind I’m like “yeah I’m down.” Late one Thursday evening after a hard workout, he introduced me to something that would dominate my mind for days. Something so ridiculous, so tragic and crippling to an entire city. We spoke for about twenty minutes over an off-beat cadence of basketball dribbling and occasional jump shots but focused on the mission at hand. Four hours from our doorsteps, tens of thousands of people were being affected by an act of domestic genocide. A slow killer was being consumed by the citizens of Flint, Michigan and the local government let it happen. Lead poisoning; people dying or dead, babies affected, elderly suffering, many poor in need, on a path to torment, with nowhere to go.

Flint, Michigan, water, Move On, health
Photo Credit: Ken Williams

Flint is a predominately African-American, low-income city that although carries so much pride, is a city of people faced with many obstacles and now, poisoned water, for now nearly two years. We know that Governor Snyder and his administration would have never allowed this to happen in more economically advantaged cities in Michigan. Moveon.org has been leading a heavy charge against Snyder calling him to take proper action and raising awareness including #UnPureMichigan

, a play on the state’s tourism slogan, Pure Michigan, and newpipesforflint.org. 

Here are some facts:

1. Drinkable lead ratio in water = 2% | lead found in flint water 27%.
2. April 2014 – a boil notice came out for Flint, Michigan residents

3. Governor Rick Snyder knew about this issue for at least one year before taking any action

Flint, Michigan, water, Move On, health
Photo Credit: Ken Williams

With all this to consider, a plan was already in motion; all I had to do was be present. I was captured by Jay’s statement “the government moves slow. If we have the ability to do something, why should we wait?”

A four hour drive to Flint is where we met Maurell and DC – two brothers from Flint – who both have family affected by this terrible issue. Our boots hit the ground and we went door-to-door in three different neighborhoods. While each person who answered the door bore a different name, they are all related for they were all like spouses in an arranged marriage. We shook hands with the cold, calculated hands of American oppression and tried to soothe the wounds of the abused. Some were fearful to answer the door to strangers though our complexion was the same.

Flint, Michigan, water, Move On, health
Photo Credit: Ken Williams

One of my best friends confirmed something about myself and people who are moved by a vision of positively affecting the world we live in. “We weren’t made to work a 9-5 and be home-bodies; we are compelled, because we know that this is bigger than us.”

From celebrities, to corporations, and most importantly, every day people, voices are being heard. Aid is being provided. People are being brought together. We just want to see proper action taken by those who can truly fix the problem.

I’m far from perfect, I’m far from fully realizing my dreams, but i’m writing this because I’m on my way……. finally.

Written by Kenny Williams

Profile photo of Kenny Williams

Ken Williams is a Columbus, OH based photographer by way of Cleveland, OH. Street photography and urban exploration were his original draws to picking up a camera. The feeling of finding and capturing something captivating cannot be duplicated or explained. It's not a rush from a thrill for Ken but more of a subtle satisfaction and an overwhelming joy. Since he has picked up his camera he has been compelled to tell stories. There is a moral responsibility that every artist should strive to uphold, and that is regardless of the medium. Having been through many hells in his life and have witnessed many tragedies, that is what shapes him as a photographer - not to only convey struggles and the darker side of life, but not to shy away from it. Ken believes that we all have voices; his voice just to happens to ring loudest through visuals.

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