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I am so happy to be here in Flint to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Hamilton Community Health Network. I want to thank Clarence Pierce for his commitment to the city, the community, the health centers…and ultimately, the people of Flint.

Before I go any further, I’d to bring greetings from the Tom Joyner Morning Show. I don’t think there is a person connected to our show who hasn’t contributed in some way to Flint. From Rev. Al’s presence for the prayer vigil and ongoing advocacy through the National Action Network to donations and prayers, to commentaries, analysis and interviews from Roland Martin, Jacque Reid, Shaun King and Sybil, our love and support for you continues.

Justice Writer Shaun King sends you this personal message: “Please tell the people we still see them and we still care.” You know he means it too. I have not seen anyone who fights so hard for Black people in a long time.

Sybil also sends her love. She stopped reading, watching reality shows and going to the movies long enough to write this message full of Big “A” words…Please continue to promulgate great institutions like the Community Health Centers in Flint in order to live our best lives with vigor and robustness as well as the lives of future Flint residents.”

I got $20 for the first person who can break this down in to 10 words or less.

Sybil has a great mind but it didn’t just get great. It got great because she was lucky and blessed enough to have gotten all the resources she needed as a child. Well, right here in Flint there are a lot of baby Sybil’s, a lot of little brilliant Shaun King’s, a little talkative Roland Martins, and little funny Kym Whitleys, who live in a country where certain rights are guaranteed to them.

But instead, these children will suffer with developmental and growth problems, behavioral and mental health issues, possible reproductive damage and the list goes on and on. Not because of anything their parents did or didn’t do, simply because they lived in Flint and were doing something as simple and basic as bathing and drinking water!

As Roland points out, this is an American city which makes the crisis unacceptable.  Like Roland, me and many of you, it’s hard for most people to believe that in a country as wealthy as ours is, a crisis like this could happen. But not only did it happen, it has not been resolved by the city, the state or by the Federal Government. And yes, I’m going to play the race card. In fact, I have enough race cards in my hand regarding this issue to run the table.

I cannot see something of this magnitude happening in a majority white community and then leaving it up to the people themselves to come up with a way to live through it. I’m sure the residents are grateful for all the bottled water and  hand sanitizer and the books and learning toys that have been donated.

We made donations ourselves. But that isn’t the answer. If I can borrow a phrase from our Funny Chair Comedian Lavell Crawford, that is like eating a fried triple meat and cheese bacon burger…and throwing a little kale on it. Kale is a super food, but it’s not going to cure the damage done by a fattening, high calorie, cholesterol filled meal!

Now, I’m in no way making light of this situation but I’m just trying to paint a picture here. To the city of Flint and Dr. Pierce, there is a huge job in front of us all. And don’t think we’re naive enough to think that Flint is the only city where people are drinking and bathing in contaminated water.

But as the Tom Joyner Foundation points out, sometimes you just have to concentrate on what you can do right now, and right now, we are about the Hamilton Community Health Network. In light of the fate of Obamacare or any reasonable affordable health care bill, places like Hamilton Community Health Centers are crucial. There are babies and children and now teens and young adults whose future is questionable because of this crisis. As the great Rochelle Riley pointed out,  this is more than a disaster. A disaster is something that is natural, something you don’t see coming. That isn’t what happened to the people of Flint. This is a man-made tragedy that could have and should have been prevented.

Let’s pledge to support the community health centers and not only tonight. An ongoing effort has to be made because the impact of the lead contaminated water is very far-reaching and every aspect of Flint has been touched by it. Everything from the economy and real estate to the school system, to the mental, physical and emotional health of everyone who lives here has been altered by this crisis.

But you already know the bad news. In fact you’ve probably been inundated with bad news for the last four years. And having a President in office who doesn’t even believe in the  Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t help. Wait is he still the president or did he fire himself?

Too soon?

So here are some things you can do, people of Flint. Realize you are not alone. We will not forget you and will continue to be a national voice. Our doors and microphones are open to you.

  • Long after you’re no longer a headline in mainstream media, we will continue covering stories on Flint.
  • Celebrate and think on things that are positive. Music, romance, new babies, watch Queen Sugar, what ever helps you remember that there is still lots of life to live.
  • Serve others. Sometimes when things are the lowest the only place you can get joy is by helping someone else.
  • Tell your stories. Don’t get silent. Make noise and remind the world of what’s happening in the United States of America.
  • And finally give to the Community Health Centers because it is clearly a resource that is the only thing available for some of the people here in Flint.
  • Your community and this network of health providers is a shining example of what can be done when you really care about the people. And for all of the cities around this country, it may become a template for what they need to be doing now and in the future.

Applaud yourselves, Flint and hold your heads up high. The government owes you a great debt but you know we are strong people. They owed our ancestors too, but that didn’t stop them from pressing forward and doing great things that we are benefitting from to this day. There’s a well-deserved victory ahead for you. Don’t stop fighting, don’t stop pushing, don’t give up.

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My Message To The People Of Flint  was originally published on