How Black Mississippians Found Their Power During Jackson’s Water Emergency

Published

After two weeks of taking sponge baths, Kalif Wilkes lingered in a long, hot shower with plenty of steam in his Jackson, Mississippi, home. The water had just come back on for this capital city of 160,000.

“The first shower I took, I stayed in there for 45 minutes. It was heaven,” says Wilkes, 25. “I bought a brand new bar of body soap, I rubbed shea butter everywhere and did a very deep exfoliation. I’d felt grimy.”

 Wilkes is part of the Mississippi Winter Storm Rapid Response Coalition, a group of grassroots first responders who, a month after the back-to-back winter storms that froze the city’s antiquated water pipes, were still delivering boxes of water and hot plates of food to people in need.

“It’s the elephant in the room,” Wilkes says. “Four weeks since the storm and we’re still doing citizen relief because the relief from our government is essentially nonexistent.”

With a largely white Republican state leadership withholding resources to the Black and Democrat majority city, Jackson has long struggled with how to pay to repair its dilapidated water infrastructure, which even before the burdens of climate change was inadequate. Activists, residents and some journalists see the state’s decades of disinvestment as a long-term strategy of economic warfare to blight, condemn and ultimately seize the water system as a means of regaining political control of the city. In response, grassroots activists are taking matters into their own hands.

 

Read the article at Capital and Main