"The government wasn’t listening to the adults, the adults [weren’t] listening to the government, so I thought [they] would listen to kids like me." Mari Copeny
At a rally in Flint about a year ago, an organizer pulled Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny onto the stage with Janelle Monáe and Stevie Wonder. Little Miss Flint received a familiar cheer from hometown fans.
Copeny, 11, loves a crowd, but what makes the young girl special is her outsize sense of duty. After she won the Little Miss Flint pageant in 2015, she used her title to initiate a dialogue between Flint’s children and the police.
And when the Michigan city’s water began to go bad – taking a long shower hurt Copeny’s skin, and her younger siblings got rashes – she knew something had to be done. The corrosive water was actually eroding iron mains and leaching lead from old pipes in homes and buildings throughout the municipality, though people didn’t know that yet. A period of misinformation and confusion gripped Flint – that’s when Little Miss Flint raised her voice.