There's a rising star in environmentalist activism, and she makes sure the Flint, Michigan water crisis is never forgotten.
Amariyanna Copeny, who also goes by "Mari," is a 13-year-old activist who lives in Flint, a city with a population that is nearly 54% Black. Over 41 of its residents live below the poverty line in Flint, and the area has been marred by high levels of lead in its drinking water since 2014.
Mismanagement by city and state officials led to the Flint water crisis, which Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality initially ignored, minimizing "months of complaints from Flint residents about their water having an odor, being greatly discolored, and undrinkable," Vox reported.
Copeny was one of the early activists to bring attention to the Flint water crisis. In 2016, when she was only eight years old, then-President Barack Obama flew out to Copeny's hometown after she wrote a letter to him about helping her home and community. Not only did Copeny get to meet with Obama, but she was able to witness Obama's allocation of $80 million in relief funds to Flint to help repair the water infrastructure.
Since then, "Little Miss Flint" has been a leading voice in advocating for both her hometown and environmental racism nationwide.
“Flint is not unique,” Copeny told Vox. “There are dozens of Flints across the country. Cases of environmental racism are on the rise and disproportionately affect communities of people of color and indigenous communities.”
Here are a few of the amazing accomplishments Copeny has achieved since tackling the Flint water crisis.
Fundraising for numerous causes
According to Copeny's website, she's raised more than $500,000 for the Flint Kids project since 2016. These funds went toward helping over 20,000 children in Flint and other cities get clean water, backpacks stuffed with school supplies, Christmas toys, movie screenings and other sources. The website also said the project has received thousands of letters in support of Flint from people all over the world.
“To the people [who] are living outside of Flint, the crisis is not over yet,” Copeny said. “But Flint is not the only city dealing with a lead water crisis, in fact, there are hundreds of other communities dealing with the exact same crisis. If we forget about Flint, there is no hope for any of those other communities.”
Providing access to both clean and environmentally-friendly water
While Copeny reportedly hosted weekly distribution of water bottles to thousands of Flint residents, she's also been working on pivoting away from single-use bottles. She partnered with a filtration company called Hydroviv to create her very own water filter in 2019. According to Vox, every dollar donated at the time was equivalent to 160 water bottles. As of March 22, she has raised over $414,000 to produce the filters.
Becoming an ambassador, public speaker, and award-winner
Copeny has served in multiple public roles since taking on environmental racism. In 2017, she became a national youth ambassador for the Women's March on Washington and National Climate March. She has also spoken twice for the March for Science about how the Flint water crisis has affected her community, Copeny's website reads. Little Miss Flint also has a seat on the Flint Youth Justice League and the Michigan Department of Education Anti-Racism Student Advisory Council.
The young activist has many more roles to her name, but she was officially recognized by winning a Shorty award for activism in 2019. The Shorty Awards recognizes the best in social media and online content creation, their website says. Copeny almost has 140,000 followers on Twitter and 156,000 followers on Instagram.
Becoming a delegate to the United Nations
The young activist revealed on Twitter that she will be a U.S. delegate on the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Vice President Kamala Harris and UN Ambassador for the U.S. Linda Thomas-Greenfield will serve as Heads of the Delegation, the United States Mission to the UN confirmed on their website.
Copeny will be among other non-government figures for women's rights, such as Dr. Roopa Dhatt, M.D., Executive Director of Women in Global Health, and Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Executive Director and Global Initiatives Officer of Trans Women of Color Collective
Photos: Getty Images