Student view:

Maria Braganini and Kelley Waterfall: Faces of Flint

May 4, 2016

Maria Braganini and Kelley Waterfall are both seniors majoring in journalism in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

What is day-to-day life like in a U.S. city where the water supply is not safe for drinking, bathing or cooking? How are residents coping through the crisis? How are they striving to ensure the best possible future for their children?

These were the questions that the five-part documentary series, ‘Faces of Flint,’ aimed to answer. The collaborative project between WKAR and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences consists of five radio pieces with corresponding short video documentaries.

Faces of Flint cover of multiple images of people

When we heard about the Flint water crisis, our first instinct was to ask how we could get involved. Living in Michigan, we considered ourselves neighbors to Flint even though our perspectives were almost opposite.

Kelley, never having visited Flint before, had a predisposition of poverty and danger of the stigmatized city. Whereas I had memory upon memory from my childhood visiting my Gigi (grandmother) in Flint, browsing the Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings and eating ice cream for lunch.

When we heard our journalism professor Geri Alumit Zeldes was producing a mini-documentary series called ‘Faces of Flint,’ we knew it wasn’t a coincidence. This was our chance.

One week later we were in Flint setting up a camera and a light-kit in the Herman family living room. Every weekend and some weekdays we would road trip to Flint, meet families, communities and individuals for the first time and interview them. They opened their homes to us and we were granted an opportunity to see first hand what the people of Flint deal with on a daily basis.

We saw that a 50-minute drive meant a world of a difference. The lives of the Flint residents were so vastly different from ours due to the injustices in the city.

Every family and community that we talked to was distinctive from one another. We realized there was more than one side to Flint that the news media has been portraying.

We witnessed that the water crisis isn’t a race issue or a wealth issue. Lead doesn’t discriminate on socioeconomic status or age.

The goal of our mini-documentary series was to prove the stereotypes wrong. Showcasing the progressive future of Flint through the perspective of Flint natives, we highlighted the newly renovated Flint Farmers’ Market, upcoming restaurants and breweries, the Flint Institute of Arts and downtown Flint.

Our work in Flint was life changing.

We personally connected with every community, family and individual that we spoke with. They shared intimate details of their personal health, socioeconomic status, political views and struggles. They exposed their emotional wounds and devastation. We saw a city falling to its knees with nobody running close behind to catch them.

Today we know the importance of the work we did in Flint. Through ‘Faces of Flint’ we hope to tell the truth of Flint. I know now that I want to dedicate my future in journalism to tell the truth about social justice. And you know what they say about the truth — it will set you free.

Listen to or view the stories

Read more about the project