What it’s like to lose water in Jackson, Mississippi
On Tuesday, August 30, it was reported that Jackson, Mississippi – the state capital and a metro area of nearly 431,000 people—in a water crisis. Residents are warned that the water is not potable. Here, when the heat index rises to 120 degrees. Late Tuesday night, both Mississippi governor Tate Reeves and President Biden declared a state and federal emergency. The National Guard was distributed to provide water.
Mississippi is the Blackest state in the Union, with a population of 37.8 percent African-American. Jackson is no different; 82 percent of the city’s population is black. Neglecting the city’s water supply is part of a much older story of state governments abandoning public works after the end of Jim Crow. After Brown sued the Board of Education, Jackson’s white residents fled instead in favor of integrated schools, and their tax dollars went with them. Jackson has a poverty rate of 24.5%, compared with the national average of 11%. All of this has resulted in a legacy of managerial laxity that has brought us to where we are today.
As experts scrambled to blame different political parties for the current emergency, the people of Jackson did what black Mississippians have always done: They had to work to imagine ways of emergency. Go forward to help each other. Mississippi is home to all of the problems I mentioned above. But it is also the birthplace of freedom – true freedom – in this country. Mississippi is Fannie Lou Hammer, Freestyle Riders, Free School, and Hamer’s Freelance Farm Cooperative. The movements of the 50s, 60s, and 70s formed radical ideas about democracy, resilience, the environment, and history that the rest of the country barely caught up with for more than half a century. after. The imaginary Mississippi and inhabited by Negroes and their allies have always existed in the tension between those two dimensions – the shackles of the past and the boundless imagination of future freedom. How will.
This crisis is no different. Maisie Brown is a 22-year-old Jackson resident and student at Jackson State University. She has lived in the city most of her life; Her parents (her father is an educator, and her mother is a dentist) moved the family to Jackson in 2005 from Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. “One thing you get used to, especially if you go to work and school in Jackson – you get used to the announcements about boiling water. Honestly, it’s like a part of Jackson,” she said. Jackson’s water emergency has been known to residents and state officials since at least 2014, with some newspapers even declaring the city the “next Flint” more than six years ago.
The Jacksonians did what the Negroes of Mississippi had always done: They had to work to imagine radical ways to help one another.
“We’re going to have a boiling water announcement here, maybe a few days, maybe a week into a bad month,” Brown said. “But the unique thing about this one is…we announced the boiling of the water and we never went out. And I think that’s when everyone’s beard grows. While we know Jackson’s infrastructure needs some help, needs some work, I don’t think people know how bad it is.”
Brown often watches the local news to relax. “It was just a relaxing time for me, even though it was a bit chaotic,” she said, laughing. So when her local news sounded the alarm about this emergency, she jumped into action.
Brown organized for about 20 students in Jackson State to buy water in large quantities and deliver it to people in need. She asked for donations on social media and in less than 24 hours she had raised $2,000 from donors. “I’ve had people tag along and say, ‘Hey, love comes from New Jersey.’ ‘Love from Brooklyn, New York.’ It was people from all over the country who wanted to help us,” she said.
She and her organizers used the money to buy bottled water from surrounding supermarkets and go to stores in other districts when supplies ran out. They set up a hotline so people could text with the household’s address and needs. Then Brown and her co-volunteers delivered. She told me, “I have 20 boxes in my trunk right now. They also hope to be able to use the money to order water online, to help alleviate a shortage of bottled water. She is aware that even using social media leaves the most vulnerable people who may not have access. “I know many of our target audience might not be on social media much, so I’m going to try to print some literature this week that we can go and do door-to-door. Just leave flyers, letting people know what we’re doing, especially in some communities where I know there are a lot of elderly people.”
We informed about boiling water and we never went out. That’s when everyone’s beard is pointing up.
“While there are a lot of organizations around the city setting up stations where you can come and get water,” Brown explains, “not that many, at least from what we see, are actually delivering,” explains Brown. shop for people who can’t do those things. I just had someone text me, like, ‘Hey, I have a friend who has multiple sclerosis, who’s out of town right now. Can you drop some water there for them? ‘ I’ve had people call their elderly parents in the area.… They don’t live here, but their parents live here, and they’re not as mobile as they are. One of the cities in the suburbs of Jackson… they also get their water from Jackson. They were fighting the same problem. And [a woman from there] texting and saying, ‘Hey, I have a disability. I have a lot of problems with my feet. Can someone skip the two cases here? ‘”
It was a spontaneous community response to the messiness of a larger structural problem. “It gets frustrating when you live in a situation where people in leadership positions don’t care much about you because you don’t look like them,” says Brown. Jackson is a Black Democratic city, in a state where political power rests with the Republican, largely white, leader. “We are a community that is used to being autonomous. So there are a lot of people in this community who are always willing to help others because we are used to not really getting the help we need and deserve. “
“We are a shrinking community, unfortunately,” she continued, “who are just trying to do the best they can to keep us moving forward. And there are a lot of people here in Jackson who want better for that community and who are doing their best with what they have to make it happen. “
She alludes to the economic minefield coming out of emergencies like this: “We have businesses that are extremely frustrated with the current situation. Businesses that are struggling are really bad,” she said. “Everybody is upset. Everyone is excited. People aren’t happy with what’s going on, but like I said, if you’re Mississippian, you have to get used to being resilient. And so we’re trying our best to make it work. “
It’s very frustrating when you live in a situation where it feels like people in leadership positions don’t care much about you because you don’t look like them.”
The situation in Mississippi is one that could happen anywhere in the United States; For decades, researchers and reporters have warned about our crumbling infrastructure and the danger to our water supply. The water crisis isn’t unique to Mississippi, but the rest of the country can learn from the extraordinary community care and organization that organizers like Brown spring have taken in the face of the crisis.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
To help with the water crisis in Mississippi, you can donate to the following organizations currently operating on the ground in Jackson:
Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition: Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition (Coalition), led by People’s Advocacy Institute, Mississippi Poor Campaign, Immigrant Coalition for Justice and Equality, One Voice, MS, Alternative ROOTS, Move Mississippi, Good Work, Strong Arms of Mississippi, and more than 30 partner organizations are working to meet the clean water needs of communities directly impacted by deteriorating infrastructure in Jackson , Mississippi.
The group that Maisie Brown put together is called MS Student Water Crisis Advocacy Group.