Sometimes In life, you meet people doing some fantastic and exciting things for other people. You know, the kind of stuff that just blows your mind. Barb Barton is one such person for me.
A couple of months ago, I asked Michigan State University Press to arrange a podcast interview with Barb, who had authored an acclaimed book, "Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan." As usual, I began to do some research on Barb's book and her life. That is where I discovered that this woman was way more than an author. She was an endangered species biologist, an accomplished singer-songwriter, and had just completed her first documentary film. The subject was the Flint water crisis. The film titled "Water" was about to travel to the various film festivals in various parts of Michigan and the Midwest and tell the story of the people of the City of Flint. It was a city whose municipal water supply was poisoned.
What I learned from my research was Barb Barton was an extraordinary American. She used her skills and talents with great focus and charity. Since my podcast was about wild rice in Michigan, I was not sure just how it would go over if I asked her to do three more podcast episodes to share her efforts to help those suffering in Flint. Flint, after all, is my hometown. Barb's efforts to volunteer in Flint, delivering water, writing, and performing music about Flint, as well as producing and directing a documentary movie about Flint's poisoned water, made her one of many unsung heroes in the eyes of the families of Flint.
Let me retreat for a moment. Barb founded "Love From Lansing," a group in Lansing, Michigan, a charitable group determined to help out the people of the City of Flint during their time of need. They hold water drives to provide their Flint neighbors with clean water and comfort to support them through the water crisis and its aftermath.
This Lansing, Michigan group raised money to buy water, diapers, baby wipes, and other supplies and arranged for a moving company, Two Men and a Truck, to deliver them to Flint from there; they arranged with a community group to deliver water to those who "fell between the cracks" as Barb describes it. They arranged home deliveries for the needy and those unable to get water at an area church or school. Sadly, the group had to halt its involvement in its water delivery efforts to Flint when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan.
It was a cold January when Barb Barton began volunteering in Flint, asking volunteers to help distribute water to Flint residents whose drinking water had been poisoned by lead.
Working first with American Red Cross, delivering cases of water and filters to the residents, Barb began working at the water distribution site at St. Mary's Catholic Church on N. Franklin St.
Barb had traveled to Flint every Saturday (except Easter weekend when the site was closed) and sometimes a day or two during the week since mid-January to help distribute water, educate the residents, and unload water donations from all over the country and Michigan.
St. Mary's is a "no questions asked" distribution site that provides a safe environment for undocumented people to obtain water, filters, baby wipes, and other needed supplies.
As time has gone on, donations have declined. There is still a need at St. Mary's for essential items for the neighborhood and community. Barb began filling her pick-up truck with 40 cases of water for the past several weeks to take to St. Mary's. One truckload of water will help several families for a few days. The need is still great; the folks do not trust the water filters and are still only drinking bottled water in the eastside neighborhood where she worked.
At some point, the crisis will end. But for now, Barb is committed to volunteering every Saturday until she is no longer needed. However, the pandemic and COVID-19 have interrupted her many efforts to help. People in Flint still need help through water donations, baby wipes, and hand sanitizers.
Barb said, "The people in Flint are suffering emotionally as well, and the support from their neighbors in Michigan and other states helps them feel loved and enables their healing process to forward. It is about taking care of each other in times of need."
Many people donated at the beginning of the water crisis and then stopped.
Flint is one of a small number of American cities facing two public health emergencies simultaneously. Namely, perhaps thousands of children in the City of Flint who drank the toxic water are now suffering the effects of lead poisoning and dealing with a deadly pandemic. Flint's black and brown residents have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 virus.
Barb was so touched by the people who came to Flint from all over America to pitch in and do what they could to help the residents of Flint that she decided to use some of her talents as a songwriter. She penned the song "Water," which tells the story of the families who dealt with "brown" water, mysterious illnesses, and fear. The song was written with a driving beat to represent the ongoing daily struggle that Flint families face daily.
The making of the song "Water" was captured with a video. Barb arranged for a Flint community choir, Cho'zen, directed by Albert Strickland, to participate in recording the song. The result is a magnificent and moving testament to the unity that only a community emergency brings.
The filming of "Water" was followed by producing a documentary movie by the same name. The movie focused on the efforts to help the victims of this horrible crisis.
Recently, I interviewed Barb Barton again, this time about her song "Water."The interview was supposed to be about songs written about Flint, inspired by Flint, or has Flint in the title. But as with the first time I interviewed Barb, I walked away thinking there is so much more this woman has to offer the people of Flint.
Barb Barton determined not to let America forget the suffering of those in Flint. Her song is still making the rounds at film festivals, gigs, and events where Barb performs.
Every City has its angels in its time of need. So many people have reached out with a helping hand and love to those in my hometown. Some who helped Flint's children and residents did not make it on CBS 60-Minutes.
We should not forget to say thank you for what they have done. They are our Angels, and in time of need, they are the type of Americans who do not get much attention or admiration. That is not why these people give their time, money, and talent to reach out to those in dire need. They do it for the love of humanity. We can always use more Angels, but in these times, we could use more love for one another and true charity. We could use 1,000 more Barb Bartons'.
Thank you, Barb Barton and all the others, for all that you have done for the City of Flint. For all the rest of us, there is still more that we can do for Flint.
Please visit her website if you would like to learn more about Barb Barton and her music, the documentary movie "Water," or her volunteer efforts visit Barb's website,