Amariyanna Copeny: Little Miss Flint the Water Warrior

By the MTM Team | March 16, 2024

Who is Little Miss Flint?

Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny also known as “Little Miss Flint” was born on July 6, 2007 in Flint, Michigan. Before she even reached double-digits, Copeny had become a passionate human rights advocate and a prominent figure in raising awareness about access to safe water. She gained widespread attention due to her campaign for politicians to rectify the Flint Water Crisis which had plagued her community for years.

The Flint Water Crisis

Once a thriving industrial hub, Flint fell on hard times after the closing of its main automobile manufacturing plants

Following its economic downturn, Flint fell under state control in 2011. Governor Rick Snyder was appointed an emergency manager to cut city costs, and so Flint became stuck between a rock and a hard place: money issues and a brutal environmental crisis. 

In 2013, the city switched its water source from Detroit to the Flint River to save money, but without proper treatment. This caused lead contamination due to the corroded pipes. Residents were complaining about the foul-smelling and discoloured water by April 2014, but officials insisted it was safe. 

A study by Virginia Tech in 2015 confirmed elevated lead levels in the water, with nearly 17 percent of samples exceeding federal safety standards.

Mari’s Letter to President Obama

At eight years old, Mari wrote a letter to President Obama to share that “[she was] one of the children… [a]ffected by th[e] water” in Flint. She acknowledged that she had “been doing [her] best to march in protest and to speak out for all the kids that” lived in her community. 

She also noted that she was headed the President’s way, and asked if she could meet him during her trip to Washington, D.C.

The former American president responded quickly and told Copeny: “I want to make sure people like you and your family are receiving the help you need and deserve.” He informally pledged his support for her cause, promising that he would “use [his] voice to call for change and help lift up [her] community.” 

On Wednesday, May 4th, Obama visited Flint, Michigan where he famously took a sip of Flint’s contaminated water during a press conference address. While in the city, he listened to residents like Mari, learned about the public health crisis firsthand, received updates on federal response efforts, and engaged directly with members of the Flint community. 

Hard Work Pays Off

Mari’s letter worked as a critical catalyst to the first steps in resolving the Flint water crisis with some federal oversight. Obama’s visit resulted in the approval of $100 million in relief funds for the city. 

As for Miss Flint, her work did not end there. In 2017, Mari remained committed to social justice, serving as a national youth ambassador for both the Women’s March on Washington and the National Climate Mari. 

Additionally, she holds positions on the Flint Youth Justice League and the MDE Anti-Racism Student Advisory Council, furthering her dedication to advocacy and community involvement. 

This does not begin to scratch the surface of Amariyanna’s growing accomplishments, and she is still growing and glowing. She is also active on social media, where she runs a “WednesdaysForWater” campaign, continuing her legacy in fighting for others’ human right to clean water.