Politics

Here's How Flint Residents Reacted to Hillary Clinton's Visit

February 9th 2016

By:
Steven Thomas Kent

FLINT, Mich. — Standing below a mural of Jesus' baptism inside Flint's House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church, associate minister Georgia Veal made it clear who she thought would solve the city's water crisis. It wasn't presidential candidate Hillary Clinton—or any politician, for that matter.

"We know the water's bad right now," she told the assembled congregation. "But who made the water? Hallelujah. He's already working it out."

Hillary Clinton speaks Flint, Mich.

Despite Veal's belief that a solution to the water crisis would come from the divine, she and other members of the congregation overwhelmingly responded with enthusiasm to Clinton's Sunday visit to the struggling city. But, they also said that Flint's recovery would take a long and arduous effort, both from public officials and community residents.

Former Secretary Clinton took a break from her campaign just 48 hours before New Hampshire's Democratic primary election to hold a community meeting on Sunday in Flint, as reported by ATTN:, with the intent of bringing attention to the city's lead-contaminated water crisis. In her remarks, she urged Senate Republicans to approve a Democrat-proposed Senate amendment that would grant $600 million in federal aid for Flint residents.

"I just learned about [Ms. Clinton's] visit yesterday," Veal told ATTN: hours before Clinton took the stage at the church. "I feel it's a good time for her to come, the right time. We're all in this together now and we need to come together in love."

Georgia Veal in Flint, MI

Veal said that before she moved into an apartment last year for reasons related to her age, she noticed that the water from service lines in her house looked different after Flint switched its water source from the Great Lakes to the Flint River. She explained:

"I don't know how much it's affected my health, but I knew it smelled bad, it didn't look right. I didn't know what was going on."

Genesee County Commissioner and former Michigan state representative Brenda Clack also spoke with ATTN: after attending the community event. Clack said that while she approved of the Senate amendment for aid to Flint and appreciated Clinton's appearance in support of the measure, longer-term funding solutions would be needed. She explained:

"Hundreds of individuals have experienced a long-term impact on their lives. We need a stream of funds over time that will allow for replacement of all the lead pipes in Flint, and it can't be over the next 10 to 15 years. We need it now."

Genesee County Commissioner Brenda Clack

In a somewhat surprising sentiment that echoed Veal's optimism, Clack said the water crisis could provide an opportunity for Flint residents to reinvent their community and better themselves.

"The beauty of this focus on Flint is that it will change the fabric of this community, which has endured so much since General Motors left," Clack said.

Still, attendees at Clinton's event continued to express frustration at city and state officials for the slow and reluctant manner in which they responded to Flint's water crisis. House of Prayer deacon Clinton Jenkins, 70, told ATTN: that he had skin rashes all over his body from exposure to tap water in his house. A former 34-year employee of General Motors, he said that he and his wife are unable to drink the municipal water that they receive a $136 bill for each month. He said that they purchase water from Sam's Club to supplement donated water from Flint's water distribution centers.

"I'm all broke out — my skin is broke out all over," he said. "Everybody's really frustrated — they're charging us for this water we can't even use."

"It's too bad that this happened in Michigan — that they stooped to what they did just to save a few dollars," Jenkins added. "That's crazy."

17-year-old Jontavias Kelly told ATTN: that his home had been affected as well, saying that the water in his residence left a brown ring in the tub after being drained, and that he avoided using it for drinking or brushing his teeth. He said he had a number of friends at school with rashes and other skin conditions that they attributed to Flint's water.

Portrait of 17-year-old Jontavias Kelly of Flint

Kelly told ATTN: he was concerned about lead-related health effects on his body as he grows into adulthood, but that he was much more worried about younger members in his family:

"I've got a baby sister and I'm scared for her, [and] how this is going to affect her as she gets older."

Although reviews at and around the site of the event were positive, the Guardian reported that local activists associated with the "Flint Lives Matter" movement accused Clinton of "coming for the entertainment."

“If she’s bringing 35,000 hydroelectric filters, I’ll love her for it," independent contractor Arnette Rison III told the Guardian. "But that’s not what she’s about to do.”

ALSO: Hillary Clinton Made a Major Statement In Flint