002: Elizia Artis: Education in Flint, the Water Crisis, and BLM

This episode, I talk with Elizia Artis about what it means to build a community around education. She works in Flint, Michigan for the Crim Fitness Foundation and works with the school and communities there to solve problems effecting the students and parents. Elizia was an AmeriCorps volunteer and now manages other AmeriCorps volunteers in Flint so she’ll give some information about civil service and what some of those responsibilities look like. Lastly, Elizia explores some of her thoughts about issues effecting people of color and the Black Lives Matter movement.

If you liked this interview, I think you'll enjoy my interview with the Oakland community organization, Hip Hop 4 Change.

I talk to Khafre and JP of Hip Hop For Change. Khafre is the founder and executive director and JP is the events coordinator. We discuss the inherent problems of corporate media promoting a singular narrative of hip hop and the reason why diversifying hip hop is important for kids in inner city communities.

You may also like my interview with activist, Tia Lebherz.

Tia Lebherz talks in depth about saving water and other threats to our environment. First, we talk about her work at WaterNow Alliance and how WaterNow is bringing together people to find innovative ways to save water on the West Coast. Then we’ll talk about her work for Food and Water Watch as the California organizer and the importance of banning fracking, specifically in California. 


  • Elizia explains her responsibilities at the Crim Fitness foundation. [00:02:14] 
  • Elizia talks about her experience working for East African Community Services with AmeriCorps in Seattle.[00:04:23]
  • What is AmeriCorps? [00:04:45]
  • How do parents and students get involved with the programs you introduce? [00:07:33]
  • How has the program been received by the community? [00:08:33]
  • What does the area around the schools look like that Elizia is fixing up? [00:10:15]
  • Building trust in communities. [00:13:03]
  • As a city with more low income people, are there more AmeriCorps workers? [00:14:33]
  • What was it like watch the Flint Water Crisis unfold in Flint, Michigan? [00:16:49]
  • Are people super distrustful of the government now? [00:19:00]
  • Let’s talk about Emergency Managers. [00:20:49]
  • How are people recovering? [00:21:30]
  • Elizia opens up about her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. [00:25:40]
  • How was Leelee introduced to Black Lives Matter? [00:29:30]
  • What is progress? How do you see progress? [00:33:37]
  • Importance of voting, especially for low income people. [00:36:05]
  • Laws that make it more difficult for people to vote. [00:38:20]
  • Black Lives Matter is about Identity. [00:40:00]


“We’re only as good as the last student or family that feels engaged or successful from our programming because we need them to tell their friends, their neighbors, their other parishioners at the church that they go to. We rely on satisfying their needs in order to continue our programming.” [00:09:20]

So we take all that information back to the city of Flint and we say, hey. I mean if we want more kids walking to school. If we want more kids from their neighborhood who may not even attend that school coming to our sports programs. And if we want to see a community that is actually just buzzing around these beacons that we’re trying to create we have to do cleanups. [00:11:10]

“No and they don’t fit well in like regular Democratic American society because they’re unelected officials. [re: emergency managers]… So basically when a city or then in Detroit’s case of school district declares itself bankrupt, an individual is brought in, you know, much like a closer at a corporation. To say okay. Here’s what we’re going to cut and it’s going to save you money immediately and they usually have no connection to the community that they’re making these cuts over. They have only a connection to money-saving policy. It’s just the fact that like yeah sure. There definitely are moments in which city council representatives and other individuals could have done better jobs for a lot of these bankrupt situations within the state, but in all reality having an unelected official to kind of quote unquote clean up the mess economically. Really just makes it so that those who are actually affected by this bankruptcy have no way of having representation when these problems are quote unquote solved.” [00:20:49]

“So that’s that’s the really difficult part is just just the unknown. That’s the part that really I think also just scares parents the most like all I was trying to do was provide a human right of water to my child. And now I’m left wondering is their life going to be harder than every other child’s life in America.” Re: Flint Water Crisis [00:25:00]

“I feel like sometimes I’m doing the most. Sometimes I’m wondering if I’m doing enough. Sometimes I’m wondering why is it still my job to be doing anything at all? And it’s very difficult because you know, as like a really normal American, born in 1989 just kind of trying to like live a life that is promised to me in this myth of an American Dream. Why on Earth is it my responsibility to continue to ask for my rights and to continue to ask for my safety and to continue to promise that I’m not a threat.” [00:28:20]

“There’s been a lot of laws repealed in the past few years that I’ve definitely reminded me that it was law enforcement, like not the definition as a police person, but like the the fact that voting laws and non-discrimination laws existed, that have really kept the nation progressing. Not necessarily, you know, individual human mind sets or family mindsets or organizational mindsets. It’s really been the fact that it is against the law to treat me differently and as some of those laws, especially, when the voting rights, I think of the Voting Rights Act was repealed. That’s when you can start to see like, oh no, there hasn’t been that much human change in 50-60 years and that’s scary. And it’s disproportionately scary.” [00:33:45]

“So out of nowhere like there’s grandmas who just straight up or like how do I get a driver’s license when I don’t know where my birth certificate is because I was born under like severe oppression or I was basically born to a family of sharecroppers. How am I supposed to find any of that identification that you deem necessary to let me vote? So there’s so many people that might just not be able to express their voice at a time though really matters.” [00:39:10]

“I think that I grew up thinking that I had to be insanely smart and poised and just kind of like ready to be put in some sort of like intellectual ring at any given moment. And that’s great. That’s definitely helped me in my own college and career life. But at the same time, the fact that I could you know, see a younger kid and be like, you know that you can just be you. Like there’s no need to strive to put yourself above anybody else so that you can be smart for a black girl or pretty for a black girl or well-spoken for a black girl. You are amazing for a black girl and that aspect I really do appreciate about the movement as well.” [00:40:20]

“While we’re fighting for our rights and we’re fighting for ourselves, that doesn’t mean that we can’t be celebrating ourselves too. So, you know, there’s like this notion of black excellence and all these things that really, you know, just put us back in the perspective that all were fighting for, is the beauty that we’ve already seen in ourselves.” [00:41:38]

Comment below with some of your favorite moments from the interview!


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