Russell Simmons Brings Water And Attention to Flint Victims H2O Crisis
By Roz Edwards Managing Editor Michigan Chronicle
When business mogul and founder of the RushCard, Russell Simmons, arrived in Flint early Monday morning to deliver cases of bottled water door-to-door, he did so with a minimal amount of fanfare.
Flanked by a handful of local reporters and several staff members, Simmons and his affable team carried case after case of Aquahydrate to eager and desperate residents. In total, Simmons and his team delivered 150,000 bottles of water to cardholders of the prepaid debit card, and students at Flint Southwest Academy.
Simmons partnered with Sean “Diddy” Combs and Mark Wahlberg (owner of Aquahydrate) to launch a relief campaign for victims of the Flint water contamination crisis, which includes a pledge of 1,000,000 bottles of water to the people of Flint.
However, the congenial mood became increasingly somber as citizen after citizen recounted horrific stories of how the contaminated water has and continues to affect their health and compromise an already fragile quality of life, and wreak havoc on children whose damaging levels of lead poisoning have been diagnosed as acutely damaging to life threatening. The prognosis is not good for the citizens of Flint.
“My heart breaks for the people of Flint, who are being deprived of the most basic of necessities — clean drinking water,” said Simmons who hugged one teary resident as she shared her struggle regarding the health of her three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. “My three-year-old can’t talk and my baby has been having (violent) seizures,” said one distressed mother.
The extent of the water problem is appallingly evident. When 24-year-old Nakeyja Cade turned on her kitchen faucet to demonstrate how shamefully ineffective the state supplied faucet filters are, as supporters looked on in horror. Cade filled a small glass with tap water and placed a lead measurement device in the glass. The reading of 185 parts per billion in the filtered water sample far exceeds the 15 parts per billion action level set by the U.S. Environmental protection agency.
“This is the third filter I’ve put on, and I just put this one on two weeks ago, but none of them have worked,” explained the distraught mother.
The lead filters distributed to residents and businesses in Flint have a National Safety Foundation International certification to treat water with up to 150 parts per billion of lead, although no amount of lead consumption is considered safe. Unfiltered water collection samples collected since late December have had readings reported as high as 4,000 parts per billion of lead contamination.
“This is environmental racism and Gov. Rick Snyder should be hauled out of here in handcuffs. This would never have happened in Beverly Hills,” said an outraged Simmons, who implored that all parents have their children tested immediately for lead poisoning. “This has to do with not sending less fortunate and people of color less services. They were voters who did not vote for this governor, so they are less important to him.”
At each modest home, Simmons and his small but dedicated band of workers visited to with water donations, and Simmons offered thoughtful, but provocative words of encouragement.
“I didn’t know that things were this bad until two weeks ago. I just read in the New York Times yesterday that the water filters were working,” said an emotional Simmons.
The Def Jam co-founder and ultra-successful business magnate is using his celebrity to encourage other public figures to put their status to work by both making donations to the residents of Flint and elevating awareness of the severity of the water crisis in Flint.
“I know celebrities like Game, who donated 500,000 bottles of water and Puffy who