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Annapolis group lends a hand to Flint residents during water crisis

Andrea Blackstone | 3/11/2016, 9 a.m.
In early March, eight members of an Annapolis based group called Black Wall Street Annapolis LLC (BWSA) drove to Flint, ...
Eight members of the Annapolis based group called Black Wall Street Annapolis LLC made a trip to Flint, Michigan to support residents in need of water the weekend of March 5, 2016. Donations were collected in Annapolis. The group plans to return with more donations in May. (Courtesy Photo)

In early March, eight members of an Annapolis based group called Black Wall Street Annapolis LLC (BWSA) drove to Flint, Michigan armed with optimism, bottled water and plans to do a good deed for the people affected by the city’s toxic water supply.

Deonte Ward and members of Black Wall Street Annapolis LLC distributed water to residents of Flint, Michigan at Triumph Church Flint Campus on March 6, 2016.

(Courtesy Photo)

Deonte Ward and members of Black Wall Street Annapolis LLC distributed water to residents of Flint, Michigan at Triumph Church Flint Campus on March 6, 2016.

Tap water in Flint was contaminated with lead after the source of Flint’s water supply was changed in 2014. President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency in Michigan in February. Families are still struggling to avoid lead poisoning through consuming the toxic water that flows out of their taps. In addition to safety issues associated with drinking, bathing in the yellow or brown water is also a cause for concern.

As news of the difficult crisis continues, Deonte Ward, Christian Smooth, Tierra Smith, Mike Mullins, Amy Jackson, Adetola Ajayi, Akina Jones and Demetrius Shakur of Anne Arundel County wanted to do something to help. They urged individuals in the Annapolis area to support residents of Flint by donating water. Next, the proactive group loaded a box truck full of it and headed to Flint in a minivan, while embarking upon a two-day journey.

Ward, 27, is the CEO and founder of BWSA. The Annapolis native explained that members of BWSA who collected cases of water surpassed their goal of getting 300 cases— nearly 400 cases were collected, in addition to over 150 single gallons of water.

“A few members walked the streets of Annapolis going into communities, mom and pop shops, and large corporations. This is how we gathered [the] water,” Ward said. “With the help of a few people that I know from being a resident in Woodside Garden Apartments, we reached our goal and [then] some, after they donated 120 cases of water.”

While in Flint, BWSA members met team members of a humanitarian organization called Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA). IRUSA has been distributing pallets of bottled water by going door to door every weekend in Flint’s lower-income communities.

After dropping off the last 100 cases of water in Flint, BWSA members attended the Justice for Flint concert and donated water. Money was raised by celebrity performers, musicians and activists for residents who have been impacted the city’s water crisis.

Ward and fellow members of BWSA whose ages range from ages 21 to 56 years old are working to improve communities and meet other goals, such as helping people become entrepreneurs. The group was founded in 2015.

“One of the reasons I started Black Wall Street of Annapolis was to be able provide jobs for people that get overlooked, because of lack of experience, or because of their background,” Ward said. “I'm looking forward to joining the other Black Wall Streets across the USA and I’m hoping to work towards the same concept and decrease or reduce the unemployment rate in the lower-income communities.”

Christian Smooth also noted that BWSA intends to create more events that engage the community. Helping Flint’s residents to have clean drinking water during their time of need was the most rewarding part of the trip. Smooth— an independent filmmaker, producer and founder of Smooth House Productions—plans to release a documentary about the trip called “The Road to Flint.” Smooth expects that it will help others to understand what is really occurring in Flint.

“No one should be living the way they do, especially in America,” Smooth said.

BWSA members hope to return to Flint in May. The group has already begun already collecting water, hand sanitizer, water filters for showers and faucets and other items.

“When we return in May, one of our goals is to give out hand sanitizer and wipes to reduce the usage of water. This gives the residents more water to drink and bathe with. Collectively, I want to double the amount of water we [collected],” Ward said.

Anyone interested in donating items to help BWSA’s drive for residents of Flint, contact Deonte Ward by email: blackwallstreetannapolis@gmail.com.