BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — When Kamilah Rouse heard her family’s tales of bathing with bottled water and of knots growing on their dog’s skin after it drank the city’s water supply in Flint, Mich., she knew she had to take action.
Rouse, a Bed-Stuy resident and native of Flint, started a campaign to collect water and other resources for locals in her hometown.
“Most of my family still lives there, my siblings, my grandmother; my parents’ water supply is directly affected by what’s going on there,” Rouse said.
“Every week, every day, I’m talking to different family members and friends, just watching how it hasn’t changed over the past couple of years…For me, personally, I would be remiss not to not get involved.”
Residents in Flint have been subject to an ongoing water crisis, with many drinking tap water contaminated with lead.
In January, President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Michigan, ordering federal aid efforts in response to emergency conditions in areas affected by contaminated water.
Rouse, managing partner of culinary company Eats, Rhymes and Life, joined her husband, A Tribe Called Quest rapper Jarobi White, in collaborating with local Brooklyn businesses to gather donations of water, wipes, ready-made baby formula and hand sanitizers to take to Flint.
The duo teamed with Bed-Vyne Wine & Spirits, Bed-Vyne Cocktail and Bed-Stuy’s YMCA, all of which serve as drop-off locations for supplies.
“Living here in Brooklyn, we take for granted that we can just turn on the faucet and drink the water if we wanted to,” Rouse said. “What’s going on there should not be happening in any city in the United States.”
Rouse recalled stories from her mother, who recently had surgery in Michigan and could not drink water from the hospital.
“People from church were bringing her cases of water when she was there for almost a month, recovering,” Rouse said.
Relatives still rely on bottled water to brush their teeth and cook, she added.
“It’s unbelievable that in 2016, people have to go and get water so that they can bathe and wash their clothes,” Rouse said.
“People talk about donating water being a Band-Aid for a bigger problem, but it’s going to take time. This is going to be a very long process. We’re talking about replacing pipes in the city, in people’s homes.”
She aims to bring supplies to both the north and south sides of Flint, and is in talks with community organizations in the city to ensure the resources are allocated to locals.
"It was important for us to get involved, not only because Kamilah's family is potentially affected, but because everyone deserves clean water to drink,” White said.
Another city-wide donation effort in New York from The #BeYou Campaign started collecting water at the start of February and has reached the halfway mark on its goal of 10,000 water bottles, according to #BeYou founder Syrah Scott.
The campaign is accepting donations in Queens and Brooklyn with support from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office and partner organizations including Afrikan Poetry Theatre, Brooklyn Swirl, Top Choice Models, and more.
“We wanted to work with like-minded community organizations. There’s power in numbers,” Scott said.
The #BeYou Campaign is looking for donations of bottled water, filters and hand sanitizer through Feb. 25.
Drop-off sites are located at 176-03 Jamaica Ave. in Queens from 11 p.m. to 7 p.m., and 1592 Fulton St. in Brooklyn from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
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Eats, Rhymes and Life is seeking donations of cases, gallons, and jugs of water, baby wipes and ready-made formula, hand sanitizer, and sanitary wipes through Feb. 27.
Drop-off sites are located at the Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA at 1121 Bedford Ave.; Bed-Vyne Wine & Spirits at 370 Tompkins Ave., and Bed-Vyne Cocktail at 305 Halsey St.
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