It is disheartening to see the amount of people that believe the Flint water crisis has been “fixed.” There has not been a resolution or any measurable steps taken to permanently resolve the problem. Jaden Smith– at a mere 20 years old– has taken initiative and is doing more for Flint than some government officials. Last year, a report analyzing the response to Flint exposed the failures of the local, state, and federal government. The EPA inspector general emphasized the city’s failure to comply with regulations imposed to prevent further lead exposure, Michigan’s delayed response, and the EPA’s loose oversight.
After governor Rick Snyder’s hasty declaration of resolution in April 2018, many Americans have forgotten the crisis. He claimed that the water was clean, citing that the lead levels were well within the federal limit. This came with the announcement of the end of the free bottled water program, leaving residents with little to rely on. The residents of Flint and scientists agree that the water remains unclean. With twelve deaths linked to the crisis and future implications of lead exposure, the crisis is still in full effect. Rebuilding the water infrastructure takes time which the residents cannot afford. Clean water is still not accessible as residents endure long lines in the cold, waiting to get drinkable water. While bottled water is still somewhat present, it is neither sustainable for an entire city’s water supply nor beneficial for the environment.
This is why Jaden’s initiative is significant. Alongside his mother Jada, Jaden has been working with First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church and other organizations to improve water sustainability in Flint. His company, Just Water, is implementing a new water filtration system to purify the lead and other contaminants present in their water. “The Water Box” will allow residents to bring their own bottles, jugs, containers, etc. to fill with water, ensuring that everyone leaves with something. The water goes through several filters to ensure the cleanest water possible, and the church has highlighted their transparency in the process, publicizing both onsite and lab tests. “The Water Box” made its debut on March 7, 2019, and the church will continue to provide water every Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Flint resident, Nikitah Fisher, said the new system “blows [her] away because [they] just got used to no clean water anymore.” Jada Pinkett Smith has additionally stated that she will be making a personal donation towards a long-term resolution. Together, the Smith family represents stability, hope, love, and progress, which has been lost amidst the crisis.
Jaden Smith’s initiative proves the impact celebrities can make on an area yet it also forces people to question why and how the responsibility to provide clean water to an entire city has fallen into the hands of a 20-year-old. He had the resources to help, but at its core, this is a governmental crisis.
There is solidarity among Flint residents, and coupled with Smith’s benevolence, there is hope. It is important to remember, however, that this is only a temporary solution; it is still years before the entire water infrastructure can be replaced. The amount of crises around the world is staggering, and while many are neglected, celebrities like Jaden make sustainability a possibility.