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DETROIT, MI – Local activists and Flint citizens gathered at the Cobo Center on Friday, Oct. 27 and Saturday, Oct. 28 to share their stories of healing from the Flint water crisis.
Ten speakers participated in a panel titled Making Waves: The Flint Healing Stories on the first day of the convention. Panelists included Gwendolyn Winston, the statewide coordinator for the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Emily Kutil, a professor of architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy, Nadia Gabert, a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley, Reverend JoAnn Watson, activist Melissa Mays, Juani Oliveres, Bernadette Atuahene, Claire McClinton, and Whitney Frierson. Monica Lewis Patrick served as the moderator.
“Flint, Michigan: where you can go to the gas station and fill up your car with lead free gas, where you can go to the hardware store and get a gallon of lead free paint, but where you cannot go to your home, turn on your tap, and be sure that you can get a glass of lead free water,” McClinton said Friday.
The second of the two panels, Flint Reloaded: The Courage to Move Forward, was scheduled to include Mayor Karen Weaver, Bottles for the Babies founder Lanice Lawson, City of Flint Chief Public Health Adviser Dr. Pamela Pugh, local musical artist Mama Sol, and National Youth Ambassador Mari Copeny, more commonly known as Little Miss Flint. Mayor Weaver was not in attendance at the panel as was originally planned, but did participate via Skype. Saturday’s panel was organized by Flint advocate and mentor April Cook-Hawkins.
Each panelist was given five to seven minutes to share their stories.
Following the speakers delivering their remarks, the floor was opened to questions and comments from the audience. One audience member, a teacher at Carman-Ainsworth, Jes Matthews, took the opportunity to discuss the long-term challenges that children in Flint will face as a result of the crisis.
“There is no course of action to deal with these children who have been marked by this,” Matthews said. “They’re still going to be thrown into standardized tests,” where she says they will face a disproportionate disadvantage.
The panels, which were attended by more than fifty people, were scheduled as part of the programming during the inaugural Women’s Convention.
The Women’s Convention was organized by the Women’s March, who hosted the largest protest in history on Jan. 21, 2017, with sister marches taking place on all seven continents, to protest the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. The convention ran from Friday, Oct. 27 through Sunday, Oct. 29 in Detroit’s recently renovated Cobo Center.