UIUC finds Flint connection

By Abigale Svoboda

“I’m passionate about social justice issues, and with Flint being a predominately African American community, this definitely is an issue that is unjust,” Robertson said.

Robertson grew up almost 40 miles outside of Flint and has friends who grew up and still live in Flint. His mentor was a pastor in Flint; Robertson said they would visit his church and the community regularly. Additionally, his college basketball coach and some old teammates live in Flint.

“It’s a special kind of connection between Saginaw and Flint residents,” Roberson said.

That special connection encouraged Robertson to find a way to help Flint residents, despite being more than five hours away in Champaign-Urbana. Robertson is a resident director for University Housing but said he took on the initiative alone.

At the outset, Robertson, along with Tekita Bankhead, an assistant director in the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural RelationsJT, Dwarne McNair, Robertson’s fraternity brother in Saginaw, and Chavez Marshall, Flint native, aimed to raise $500. Through the creation of a 20 day Go Fund Me initiative, the group was able to raise $1, 278 to benefit Flint residents.JT

The Go Fund Me initiative ended on Wednesday but Robertson said they will continue to collect donations of bottled water in hopes of making a second or even third trip to Flint.

On Friday, Robertson, Bankhead and Laura Hamilton, University graduate student, drove to Saginaw to buy 13,000 bottles of water at a Wal-Mart in Robertson’s home town. The bottles were then transported to Flint and donated to Northridge Academy, a high school in Flint.

Robertson said the group chose to make Northridge the main benefactor of their efforts because of a friend who has a connection to the school.

“We live in a world where we have technology at our fingertips, and my thoughts were to use social media to make a small change,” Robertson said.

According to a report from the Associated Press, 87 cases of Legionnaire’s disease were reported in Genesee County — where Flint is located — during a 17-month time span. Ten of the cases led to deaths but the public was not informed about the increase in diagnoses.JT

The Michigan Senate recently approved $30 million to reimburse water customers and Gov. Rick Snyder said he is hopeful for more federal aid; President Barack Obama already allocated $5 million to the state as part of an emergency declaration, the Associated Press reported.JT