Mari Copeny was awarded the changemaker award during the 2022 Billboard Music Awards, May 15. The environmental-justice advocate is just 14 years old. Copeny is also known as Little Miss Flint for her work during Flint’s lead-pipe crisis. She is the third recipient of this award and is the youngest person and first woman to do so.
Teyana Taylor introduced Copeny. She accepted her award with laughter, and a big smile. She thanked her friends, family, and most importantly Flint children who she said inspire her to keep fighting.
Copeny also spoke out about the leaked SCOTUS opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade. She said, “Some people in control would rather spend their free time dictating what women are allowed and not permitted to do with their bodies.” It’s both dangerous and very strange.
Copeny stated, “Elected officials as well as judges are there to assist citizens and correct wrongs. We must speak up when government priorities are wrong. There is no time for waiting.
“I advocate on behalf of children across America, because people who look like I always get the short end the stick,” she said. Copeny lashed out at the celebrities present, saying that they have the potential to impact the world and reach millions. I challenge you to be more than an applauder of this speech.
BillboardThe award is given to “pop culture icons who speak truth to authority through their commitments to individual action or leadership.” In 2020, the first award was presented amid protests against the Minneapolis police officer’s murder of George Floyd.
Copeny received national attention in 2016 when she, at age 8 years, wrote a letter about Flint’s water crisis to President Barack Obama. Obama finally visited Flint in 2016 after receiving the letter. He approved $100 million for relief.
Copeny wasn’t content with that however. She is still agitating for Flint’s water crisis. She posted this April her annual reminderFlint is without clean water as of April 24, 2014. Flint is without clean water for another year. “Over half my life,” she wrote. According to Great Lakes NowAs of 2021, the city had already replaced just over 100,000 pipes. Although the city is now in the final stages, Flint residents will no longer trust municipal water.
Copeny has increased her coverage of not only the water crisis in her home, but also the effects of government negligence, crumbling infrastructure, and environmental racism generally.
Copeny talked to POPSUGAR in 2020 about the things that keep her going after years of activism. Copeny said, “Knowing I’m not waiting for the government fix it keeps me going. I knew that I was going to tackle the issue now, not wait for my youth. I know that I am making a difference in the lives of people all over the country.
She also stressed the importance for adults to listen to youth, saying that “It’s now to give the youth a place at the table.” It’s time for us to listen to and learn from our experiences, and to follow their lead. Stop telling us that we don’t know what you are talking. We are still children. Most cases, we are fighting to protect our lives and future.