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  • So, in 2016,

  • I was commissioned to produce a photo essay

  • about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

  • And that's been going on since 2014.

  • And I accepted the commission

  • with the idea that I would photograph three generations of women

  • dealing with the crisis on a daily basis.

  • I was fortunate to meet two best friends,

  • artists, activists and poets Amber Hasan and Shea Cobb,

  • who took me around Flint.

  • As a school bus driver, Shea Cobb became the central figure

  • of the photo essay,

  • along with her mother, Ms. Renée,

  • and her eight-year-old daughter, Zion.

  • I obsessively followed Shea's school bus routes.

  • And when Shea wasn't driving the bus,

  • she would be watching over Zion, making sure she was studying.

  • I embedded myself in every intimate facet of Shea's life.

  • When Shea took me to Zion's school,

  • and I saw the water fountains covered with signs that said,

  • "Contaminated. Do not drink,"

  • I couldn't pick up my camera to photograph it.

  • It rocked me to the core to see that in America,

  • we can go from fountains that say "Whites" or "Blacks only,"

  • to today seeing fountains that say,

  • "Contaminated water. Do not drink."

  • And somehow, that's acceptable?

  • The residents in Flint have been forced to drink with,

  • cook with and bathe with bottled water,

  • while paying the highest water bills in the country

  • for water that is infected with deadly legionella bacteria.

  • It was natural for me to go to Flint,

  • because industrial pollution, bacteria-contaminated water

  • were all too familiar for me growing up in my hometown, Braddock, Pennsylvania,

  • where my mother and I battled cancer

  • and autoimmune disorders like lupus.

  • Our 14-year collaboration, "The Notion of Family,"

  • was created out of our struggle to survive environmental racism,

  • healthcare inequity

  • and chemical emissions that were being deregulated

  • and released from the United States Steel Corporation,

  • making Braddock the town with the highest asthma and infant mortality rates

  • in the country.

  • From the Monongahela River to the Flint River,

  • in the words of W.E.B. Du Bois,

  • "The town, the whole valley, has turned its back upon the river.

  • It has used it as a sewer, as a drain,

  • as a place for throwing their waste."

  • General Motors has been cited for dumping chemicals in the Flint River

  • for decades.

  • When my photo essay "Flint is Family" came out in August of 2016,

  • it was released to remind America

  • that although Flint was no longer headline news,

  • the water crisis was far from over.

  • And, of course, I knew

  • it was going to take more than a series of photographs on my part

  • to bring relief to the people in Vehicle City.

  • Shea and I bonded over our mothers and grandmothers.

  • Amber and I bonded over our battles with lupus.

  • Together, we decided to remain in each other's life

  • and continue our creative efforts.

  • In 2017, Shea and Amber cofounded artist collective The Sister Tour,

  • whose mission is to provide a safe space for Flint artists.

  • One year later,

  • I mounted my solo exhibition, "Flint is Family,"

  • here in New York City at Gavin Brown's Enterprise

  • on West 127th Street.

  • As the audience approaches the facade of the building,

  • they see a 30-foot billboard.

  • The 30-foot billboard is made of three large color negatives

  • with the message "Water Is Life,"

  • spelled out in Nestle water bottles by The Sister Tour.

  • Nestle, the largest water-bottling company in the world,

  • pumps 400 gallons of water per minute out of aquifers in Lake Michigan,

  • nearly free of charge.

  • The company also extracts millions of liters of water

  • from First Nation reservations,

  • while they have no access to clean water at all.

  • This is a fundraiser print that I used to raise money

  • to send The Sister Tour to different venues

  • to educate people on the ongoing crisis.

  • I also continued to keep it in the public eye

  • by producing countdown flags

  • that were raised on institutions across the country.

  • This past June, Amber emailed me with the news

  • that Michigan's attorney general dropped all criminal charges

  • in the Flint Water Crisis investigation,

  • where eight state and city employees

  • were facing charges as serious as manslaughter.

  • I could no longer idly stand by

  • and wait for the government to do its job.

  • Justice has been delayed,

  • and justice has been denied.

  • It's been five years,

  • and we're still waiting on justice for the men, women and children in Flint.

  • I asked Amber, "What can I do?"

  • She told me about a man named Moses West that she met in Puerto Rico,

  • who invented a 26,000-pound atmospheric water generator.

  • Amber took Moses to elected officials in the city of Flint.

  • None of them seemed interested in bringing the machine for relief to Flint at all.

  • Amber needed to get the machine from a military base in Texas

  • all the way to Flint.

  • Nobody in Flint had that kind of money lying around.

  • And it was at that point that I decided

  • to take the proceeds from my solo exhibition "Flint is Family,"

  • along with the generous match grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation,

  • and sent it to Moses West.

  • This past July,

  • Moses West and his atmospheric water generator arrived to Flint, Michigan,

  • on North Saginaw between Marengo and Pulaski,

  • and is actually still there right now, operating.

  • This community that sits three miles from downtown

  • has been stripped of its schools,

  • access to healthy grocery stores

  • and clean water.

  • Socially, it's viewed as a violent, poor community.

  • But I see something completely different.

  • Moses, an officer, Ranger, veteran,

  • was very clear about his water rescue mission:

  • Bring relief of free, clean water to the people in Flint.

  • Teach them how to use the machine,

  • teach them how to take care of it,

  • and most importantly, take ownership of the machine.

  • Tell everybody across the city to bring all their containers

  • and come and take as much water as they can stock up on,

  • especially before the winter season hits;

  • the machine doesn't extract moisture in freezing temperatures.

  • This technology pulls air through a high-volume air filter.

  • It mechanically creates condensation,

  • which produces 2,000 gallons of water per day.

  • Residents are free to walk up to the machine

  • anywhere between 9am and 8pm daily

  • and take as much as they want,

  • alleviating them from standing in long lines for bottled water.

  • I've been at the machine, interviewing people, asking them,

  • "What does it mean to see Moses and his machine in [your] community?"

  • And, "What has it been like living without access to clean water?"

  • Alita told me,

  • "It's a miracle that God gave Moses the knowledge and technology

  • to provide us with pure drinking water."

  • She also told me that prior to the machine coming,

  • she had severe headaches,

  • and the water made her so sick to her stomach,

  • she couldn't eat.

  • Tina told me that the lead-contaminated water

  • made her hair fall out.

  • Usually, she's weak and very light-headed.

  • Since using the machine, she's had energy and strength.

  • David, he was overwhelmed with joy that someone from Texas cared.

  • When he tasted the water, he thought to himself,

  • "Now, this is the way God intended water to be."

  • He brings three seven-gallon containers to refill

  • to use at his barbecue stand.

  • Through creativity and solidarity,

  • Amber Hasan, Shea Cobb,

  • Tuklor Senegal, The Sister Tour,

  • myself, the people of Flint,

  • Dexter Moon, Moses West and his atmospheric water generator

  • have been able to provide 120,000 gallons

  • of free, clean water.

  • (Applause)

  • The people in Flint deserve access to clean water.

  • Water is life.

  • It is the spirit that binds us

  • from sickness, death and destruction.

  • Imagine how many millions of lives we could save

  • if Moses's machine were in places like Newark, New Jersey,

  • South Africa

  • and India,

  • with compassion instead of profit motives.

  • I loaded my camera,

  • I locked my focus,

  • and I placed my finger over the shutter release,

  • as Shea and Zion went to take their first sip of clean water.

  • When the shutter released,

  • I was overcome with a deep sense of joy and righteousness.

  • When I sent Shea some of the photographs,

  • she wrote,

  • "Thank you again for the light that you bring to my city."

  • I immediately replied,

  • "The light was already there within you."

  • It's been four years since I've been photographing in Flint,

  • and finally, I've been able to render a poetic justice.

  • No matter how dark a situation may be,

  • a camera can extract the light and turn a negative into a positive.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

So, in 2016,

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【TED】LaToya Ruby Frazier: A creative solution for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan (A creative solution for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan | LaToya Ruby Frazier)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2019/12/19
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