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The Jackson Water Crisis Latest Chapter in Black Mutual Aid

On Tuesday, August 30, news broke that Jackson, Mississippi–the state capitol and a metro area home to nearly 431,000 people—was in a water crisis. Residents were warned that water was undrinkable. This, as the heat index climbed to 120 degrees. By late Tuesday night, both Mississippi’s governor, Tate Reeves, and President Biden had declared state and federal emergencies. The National Guard had been dispensed to hand out water.

Mississippi is the Blackest state in the Union, with a population that is 37.8 percent African American. Jackson is no different; 82 percent of the city’s population is Black. The neglect of the city’s water supply is part of a much longer, older story of the state government’s abandonment of public works after the end of Jim Crow. After Brown v. Board of Education, white residents of Jackson fled rather than support integrated schools, and their tax dollars went with them. Jackson has a poverty rate of 24.5 percent, compared with the 11 percent national average. All of these things have led to a legacy of managed neglect that brought us to this current moment.

As pundits scrambled to blame different political parties for the current emergency, the people of Jackson did what Black people in Mississippi have always done: They got to work imagining radical ways to help one another. Mississippi is home to all of the problems I’ve mentioned above. But it’s also the birthplace of freedom–true freedom–in this country. Mississippi is Fannie Lou Hammer, the Freedom Riders, the Freedom Schools, and Hamer’s Freedom Farm Cooperative. These movements of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s formulated radical ideas about democracy, self-reliance, the environment, and history that the rest of the country has barely caught up to more than half a century later. The Mississippi imagined and inhabited by Black folks and their allies has always existed in the tension between those two spaces–the chains of the past and the boundless imagination of what a future freedom might look like.

This crisis is no different. Maisie Brown is a 22-year-old resident of Jackson and a student at Jackson State University. She’s lived in the city nearly her whole 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 work and go to school in Jackson—you get used to the boil-water notices. It’s kind of like a part of Jackson, honestly,” she says. Jackson’s water emergency has been well-known to residents and state officials since at least 2014, with some press even going so far as declaring the city “the next Flint” more than six years ago.


To help the water crisis in Mississippi, you can donate to the following organizations currently on the ground in Jackson:

The Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition The Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition (The Coalition), led by the People’s Advocacy Institute, the Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign, Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, One Voice, MS, Alternate ROOTS, Mississippi Moves, Operation Good, Strong Arms of Mississippi, and over 30 partner organizations are working diligently to meet the clean-water needs of the communities directly impacted by the deteriorating infrastructure in Jackson, Mississippi.

The group Maisie Brown put together is called the MS Student Water Crisis Advocacy Group.

Read entire article at Harper's Bazaar