In the past year, the public health disaster that became known as the Flint Water Crisis has all but disappeared from the daily news cycle. Major media outlets rarely mention it.
But former Detroit Pistons star Rasheed Wallace is making sure America doesn’t forget about the people of Flint, reminding the nation that the crippling health crisis is ongoing — and far from being over.
In a sharply worded letter published in the Players’ Tribune, Wallace expressed frustration at the conditions in Flint, noting how the city’s residents have been forced to rely on bottled or boiled water to drink and bathe over the last two years.
The former basketball star began his letter by emphasizing the importance of having clean water for simple, everyday tasks like brushing your teeth, washing your hands or rinsing off that apple you took for lunch. Unfortunately, these “luxuries” are no longer afforded to the people of Flint.
“When you woke up this morning, what’s the first thing you did?” Wallace wrote. “Took a piss and flushed the toilet? Brushed your teeth? Took a shower? Whatever you did, I’m guessing you used water.”
“That’s all normal, part of our everyday lives,” he continued. “Unless you live in Flint, Michigan.”
Wallace, who’s been visiting the impaired city over the last year, said he first learned of the water crisis when it was on every news station, in every headline. That’s when he decided it was time to help. On his first visit to the city, however, the retired basketball player said Flint reminded him of a “third-world country in the United States.”
“I’m not a water expert or anything like that, but I don’t need to be to know when something is f–cked up,” he wrote. “I just saw the horrible news, about how the government had put people at risk for the sake of saving money, and I knew I needed to help.”
“So I went,” Wallace continued. “I flew to Detroit with some friends and family members, rented a moving truck, loaded it up with as much bottled water as it could hold and drove to Flint.”
Former Tar Heel All-America & Piston Rasheed Wallace is driving a truck filled w/cases of water from NC to Flint, Michigan tonight #GoHeels
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) February 4, 2016
Wallace said he went door-to-door delivering water in the city’s low-income communities. He noted that many of Flint’s residents were already living in poverty, and now they were being forced to suffer the brunt of this public health crisis.
“… People missing clumps of hair, rashes on adults and children alike — all because of poisoned water,” the basketballer said of the affected residents he met. “Imagine that: The poorest people paying the heaviest price.”
While in Flint, Wallace said he met up with another former NBA player (and Flint native), Mo Peterson. Peterson had also decided to take action to help the people of Flint. The two former athletes met up for lunch downtown, but Wallace said he noticed a sign at the restaurant that infuriated him: “OUR WATER IS SAFE,” it read.
“Hold up, I thought. How is it that downtown water is cool, but three blocks over, the water is making children sick?,” he wrote. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Wallace went on to express disgust at the fact that the government tried to cover up a crisis that sickened thousands of residents, including young children. Wallace said he would continue returning to Flint and encouraging others — even his former teammates — to join him. Letting the people of Flint know there are still people are out there who care about them is of the utmost importance to the retired basketball star.
“They supported me when I was playing with the Pistons,” Wallace wrote. “There were a lot of people from Flint who maybe couldn’t really afford a ticket to a game, but they bought one anyway, or came down for the parade when we won the title.”
“Handing out water is the very least I can do,” he added. “I didn’t partner with any organization or agency. I just went on my own because that was the right thing to do. Every time I go, I’m amazed by the people, but I’m sickened by the lack of help.”
Wallace asserted that although the crisis is no longer in the headlines, the problem is still ongoing and nothing has been done to fix the water. He called the crisis a “long-term fix,” but bashed the government for taking nearly two years to approve funding to remedy the issue. He also pointed out that the city is still billing residents for their water — essentially forcing them to pay for water that is “still unsafe and contaminated.”
“That’s right. They still want those people to pay their m—–f—— water bills,” Wallace concluded.
“You can read this and ignore it,” he wrote. “You can say I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I’ve been to Flint. I’ve seen what’s happening. The cameras are gone, but the people are still there, and they still need our help.”