Where politicians fear to tread, celebrities including Aretha Franklin, Mark Walhberg, and P Diddy are pitching in to help the residents of Flint, Michigan, as they grapple with a toxic water scandal.
Soul singer Franklin is offering up to 50 free hotel rooms and food to families forced out of their homes by the lead-laced water. Rapper The Game has pledged $500,000 (£350,00) — with a matching $500,000 from Avita Water — and is urging other celebrities to do the same. He 'dissed' what he called "cute" $10,000 (£7,000) donations by Madonna and Jimmy Fallon.
Cher has donated 181,000 bottles of water to the beleaguered town, and the rock band Pearl Jam pledged $125,000 (£87,000) to battle the problem. The band also set up a CrowdRise funding page that has amassed over $350,000 (£244,000) in donations. "One hundred percent of donated funds are used for Flint community projects and no administrative fee is assessed," Pearl Jam wrote on its website.
Many celebrities, including several African-American singers, grew up in Detroit, near Flint, and regard the water scandal as something happening in their hometown. To save money in 2015, Flint officials pumped nearby river water into Flint homes. Not only was the water toxic, it corroded pipes and leached lead into the water, likely causing cognitive damage to thousands of children drinking the water.
"Detroiters usually come to the aid of Detroiters — and Flint is certainly regarded as Detroit," Franklin, who was raised in Detroit and still lives in the suburbs, told NBC affiliate WDIV.
A bottled water company owned in part by Sean "P Diddy" Combs and Mark Wahlberg is pledging to donate a million bottles of water to Flint residents. AQUAhydrate is sending 5,000 cases of water to Flint and will continue to provide bottles to residents until the city's water problems are solved.
R&B Singer KEM, raised in Detroit, donated $10,000 (£7,000) to the local Salvation Army and passed out water in Flint. The Motown Recording artist is also supporting the Salvation Army's "text to give" campaign; money collected will help pay for water filters and other support for residents, the non-profit said. Meek Mill, Eminem, Big Sean, the White Stripes' Jack White, all from Detroit, and Wiz Khalifa have also donated to the town to help battle the crisis.
A state of emergency has been declared in Flint, and the National Guard has been deployed to pass out water.