First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint. (WWJ/Vickie Thomas)

First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint. (WWJ/Vickie Thomas)

FLINT (CBS Detroit) – Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons in Michigan Monday to help distribute water to residents in the city of Flint as part of the ongoing water crisis brought on by a switch from the Detroit water system two years ago to the Flint River.

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Simmons and Rev. Jessie Jackson will also take part in a rally calling for environmental justice.

Simmons said the trip to Flint is about more than drinkable water, it’s about bringing awareness to the issue and getting other people with ‘big voices’ into the discussion.

“We need a billion dollar overhaul of the infrastructure,” Simmons told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas.

Simmons spoke of overriding issues of economic exploitation and the practical issue of getting water to those in need.

“It’s the RushCard. Universal Financial Services has 1,700 customers in Flint and we contacted everyone of them and told them they can go to United Way – and we got a couple hundred thousand bottles of water there … Will Smith sent a truck-load of water and Khloe Kardashian sent me a check yesterday,” said Simmons. “Lots of people are supporting this effort to make sure at least the drinking water — and put a Band-Aid on what is a major crisis.”

He emphasized that every symbolic statement, for this effort, is important for the people of Flint to know they have not been forgotten.

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“We want to reach out to them first and let them know … we are trying to deliver bottled water and we are trying to push for change, we have to figure out who is responsible, and negligence is a funny thing – if you drive your car and you run into a kid by mistake you can go to jail, that’s negligence, here is a place where we were aware there was danger, and possibly the governor should be brought up on charges,” said Simmons.

The governor let them all get poisoned said Simmons. “We need to get oversight and we need to get clarity on how this happened.

“It’s a social and economic issue on the surface. Under-served community members get the short end – the governor would never have done that to an affluent community, ever. It would not happen in Beverly Hills – not for a second.”

The rally begins at noon at First Trinity Baptist Church on Beach Street.

The city’s water is currently undrinkable after it became contaminated when Flint switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River as a cost-cutting move. The corrosive water lacked adequate treatment and caused lead to leach from old pipes — and there has since been much discussion about who is to blame.

 

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