In his senior year of high school, Kyle Kuzma wasn’t the sort of basketball player who was scouted by big schools like Michigan or Michigan State — the two top choices for a basketball-loving kid raised in Michigan. Instead, Kuzma headed west to play for the University of Utah. He became a star and a team leader, averaging 10 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, but ultimately wasn’t invited to the NBA draft. Yet, with their 27th overall draft pick in 2017, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Kuzma; since then he’s become one of the bright young stars of the NBA.
However, as Kuzma settled into his life and career out west, his hometown found itself in crisis. Kuzma is from Flint, Michigan, and for the last five years, residents of the predominantly Black town have had no clean water to drink, to wash with, to support life itself.
The crisis began on April 25, 2014, when the city, under the control of an emergency manager, decided to switch its source for drinking water and began to pump polluted water from the Flint River in an effort to save the bankrupt city $5 million dollars during the construction of a new pipeline. Due to persistent exposure to lead-poisoned water, it’s estimated that 200 pregnant women either had miscarriages or stillbirths. An additional 12 people died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease from the toxic water. And now, a generation of children may exhibit lead-based behavioral problems, have diminished IQs, and suffer a lifetime of disabilities, all because their city wanted to save some cash. And that decision seems rationalized and motivated by systemic racism.
This is unacceptable to Kuzma, who has been banging the drum hard for his hometown, trying with all his might to keep attention on Flint’s water crisis. He sent up the flare again on April 16, of this year, after news broke that the United States would be donating funds to help rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris after an electric fire set it ablaze. “I’ll say this again,” he wrote on Twitter. “We got a city on our own soil without water.”