I Don’t Know What to Say About Flint

Jake May/AP


By Cheri-Leigh Erasmus

Over the last few weeks the water crisis unfolding in Flint, Michigan, has weighed very heavily on my mind. Needless to say the thought of citizens, and especially children, being exposed to lead and possibly other toxins and diseases would make most people deeply concerned. But the main reason for my huge disappointment is found in my foreign background.

As a South African expatriate residing in the USA, I have endured countless Americans ask me questions about the availability of the most basic amenities and services on the African continent as soon as they hear where I come from. Regardless of the fact that my upbringing differs only very slightly from that of the average middle class citizen here, I do not take offense to the assumption that living in the USA affords me opportunities I would have never had as some believe. For many years the only exposure some citizens of first world countries had to Africa centered on images of famine, drought and civil unrest. All of us have seen the pictures of women and children walking miles to fill a bucket of water in a river or out of a communal well, and over the years many nonprofit organizations and development agencies have invested heavily in creating the infrastructure necessary to ensure safe drinking water for millions of people in developing countries.

I am not discounting the water crises in many other countries, but I do find the crisis in Flint abhorrent, because this could and should have been prevented in one of the most developed countries on earth. It is hard to digest that elected officials created a situation that threatened the livelihood of their constituents, sat by and covered up what can be seen as gross negligence and misconduct. All of this happened in our backyard while large sums of money continue to go into this very cause outside the USA. How does a city in this developed country open their taps to water more toxic and dangerous than the water in those images of Africa?

At what stage does charity begin at home? I am not ungrateful for humanitarian aid, but at the same time it is hard to swallow the lead-filled pill which is Flint while so many Americans still see developing countries as needy and lacking in the most basic of services. Flint is the perfect example of how much need there is and how easily a blind eye is turned to disenfranchised citizens right here on US soil. As an outsider now on the inside, watching this unfold has left me speechless, utterly disappointed and even enraged. I just don’t know what to say about Flint, and quite frankly, I’m not sure how I’m going to respond the next time I get asked about the availability of the most basic necessities in my home country.

cle headshot 2 Cheri-Leigh Erasmus is a nonprofit professional in the leadership development sector. An avid traveler and lifelong learner, she cares deeply about access to education and human rights.

Thinking Outside the Box

Sanctions lifted on Iran has oil prices going down. A gas station in Michigan last week’s price per gallon, went as low as 47 cents. Economists and business advisors are warning of an impending recession. 


What if producers brought the price of goods down along w gas prices i.e. Airfare, car sales, food, clothes etc.? Would sales rocket and revenue from product and taxes increase?

Instead of companies cutting jobs before and during a recession, why not withstand some of the challenges a recession brings? Along as they’re still making profit even if not astronomical instead of putting burden on the government. 

But what about bank loans and the stock market? Banks and the government have worked together in the past to move toxic debt off their books. Why not be proactive and think out of the box now to do that? 

The US stock market has steadily grown and the Dow is strong. Other countries financial instability is going to impact ours. Declining oil prices have already impacted smaller countries whose main source of exports are oil. Check out Gabon in Africa.

The global economy is going to stabilize.

Why not take time to bring more people along with it? Raise the minimum wage and cut inflation? Keep interest rates low so that Main Street can catch up to Wall Street. 

Finally, wondering was this part of Obama’s plan when sanctions on Iran were lifted? If so brilliant. If not, together can we make it brilliant. 

What about thinking outside the box?



President Barack Obama delivering his final State of the Union address

After this, you may say I’m naive.  Doesn’t matter what your party affiliation, many think our Nation is more divided under President Obama.

But I think the elevated tone of our debates, the more people involved in them, is a part of the change people voted for and didn’t fully embrace what that would mean.

Overall, these debates are a change for the better, because the more people involved, the faster we move toward being a more Perfect Union.

CHANGE happened in 2008, when the largest percentage of voters since 1968 voted.  A majority voted for Barack Obama because he painted a picture for them that meant change.

They were wise but perhaps naive to think change would be easy.  It isn’t.  His last State of the Union address demonstrates that change did happen. Those who voted for him should take a victory lap and then find ways to stay engaged to make sure the country after he leaves office continues to move forward.

His leadership fulfilled a promise of change.  He has kept the country as best he could from war, and ushered in a new era of inclusion with gay marriage and universal health care.

But change doesn’t come without challenges.  We are divided on some hard issues. And confronted in the Middle East by a different type of enemy.

Mass murders, guns and the definition of the 2nd Amendment are part of our national debate.  And so are terrorists and how we address those purporting that religion is the foundation of their attacks on American freedom.

Police officers are killing innocent people.  But in our union, advocates for guns, gun control, and #BlackLivesMatter are courageously and effectively making this part of the national conversation.

People of all races, religions and  presidential candidates are making these issues part of their discussions. Some promote hate and insecurity.  Others are more compassionate in their approach.  Both can educate us.

Like there are two sides to a coin, there are at least two sides to a debate.  Depending on what side you are on, or even from outside will make us look divided.  Just as Obama’s presidency is about change, his legacy is tied to how many more people he brought people out of the shadows to the national conversation. With more people, come more issues.

That’s why young Black people were able to make the #BlackLivesMatter movement relevant.  Just as young people are joining the larger community in the immigration conversation.

Entry on the Party Politics #ChalkboardCampus written by a student at Texas State University – San Marcos, Texas

They are making immigration a hot issue on the campaign trail. And why we are closer to bringing millions more out of the shadows to a clearer path to citizenship.  That’s a byproduct of change.


I am not naïve.  We are becoming a more perfect Union.  Perfection will never be achieved if we don’t embrace and learn from our history of differences.  Slavery, women’s rights, segregation and civil rights were difficult struggles for change that over time happened and at times, nearly ripped our nation apart. But the nation survived.

We were strong enough to compel the nation to change and see they were on the wrong side of history.  If we weren’t, Obama would never have become President.  That’s why we are closer than ever before of becoming a nation, of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people.

Whether it’s immigration, #BlackLivesMatter, police brutality or guns, the most important thing is to raise our voice, enter the debate, let our voices be heard and VOTE! What we saw in 2008 faltered in 2012, when there was a 7% drop in the number of people who voted.

Change happened in 2008, because the country excited for change, debated and voted.  The debates are the issues of our day.  Most importantly, the results impact us directly and/or indirectly.

Like sports, there is a winner and a loser. That can divide us, but we move on. The difference between sports and politics is most of us cannot play on the sports teams we cheer for.  And we cannot vote for or pick the players on the team. But in politics, you have a vote in selecting the players on the team and the outcome of the game.

So call me naive. But our debates and freedom to choose, make us better, because we can be in the game. We just have to choose to play!

More importantly, our right to vote secured by those before us, move generations closer to the ideal of being a more perfect union. If we stay engaged, get in the game and vote, we can move this country to embrace the issues and values of the majority, not the few.

Our President has been in the game. He’s in the last minutes of the final quarter. He’s done a lot for all Americans, not just the ones who voted in 2008.  That is the power of America. We can vote collectively for the best interest of the country or a small segment of the society.  If everyone votes, it is harder for the smaller segment to win.

With the majority of Americans behind him, he withstood challenges from Congress and a government shutdown. Now unemployment is the lowest since the 90’s, the stock market is strong and the economy moving in the right direction.

I am proud when our President says with conviction “the State of our Union is strong!” Because despite the division and elevated tone of our debates, he is right!

The State of our Union is strong and will be stronger if we stay engaged and everyone VOTES!

Party to the White House 2016

No party is good without music. And no road trip is fun without people.

The road trip to the summer conventions (GOP & DNC) started last October.  We got two schools and two states under our belt before the holiday.

At Texas State University we partied for four days with thousands of students, so you can imagine they had a lot to share!  And it was a success by no mistake: the board thanks to our Texas team, survived a tornado and flooding that put a halt to our Friday party plans.  But the party didn’t end there.

Students pose questions at the Chalkboard.

A couple of weeks later, Iowa’s Drake University Democrats, who heard about the four-day party at Texas State, invited us to come kick it with them. We happily took off! And, believe it or not, through high winds, torrential rain and tornado warnings throughout the day, en route to Iowa, the board arrived from Texas.

In the Hawkeye state, we pumped up the volume more, as students shared their thoughts–it was a great look–even the Chair of one of the Parties came by.

L-R Party Politics Ambassadors Michael Hart, Texas State University OSSW President, Steven Thornhill, OSSW member, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Chair, and Sarah Joens, OSSW Member and Party Politics Ambassador

2016 is underway, and now that the holidays have come and gone, I’m excited to get our Party Politics team back on the road! The parties we have planned around the country will truly be fun!

Bring your friends, come hear our music, taste our food and experience a lot more!

Our road trip will be more fun with you! The more who come, the better the party!

And if your college or community isn’t on our schedule, invite us!  This movement started October 2015 with Texas State Univeristy’s Organization of Student Social Workers (OSSW).  It was a pleasant surprise, and who knew they would be the first students to join our road trip?

We left San Marcos and our Texas State team drove 17 hours to Drake University to party  with the Drake Democrats!

Board at Drake University….I Want My Next President to Work On____

Next stop is South Carolina. But we have some fun to get into in the nation’s capital, January 28th the night of the Republican Debate, before we hit the road.

From the Palmetto state we head to Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. And it gets better as this campaign cycle kicks up another gear–there are so many stops we can’t even tell you about just yet!

And you never know who we will meet along the way.

L-R Party Politics team Atiba Madyun, Michael Hart, Sarah Joens, Biju Pandit, Steven Thornhill with Iowa Congressional Candidate Desmund Adams 
Drake University students!


L-R Atiba Madyun, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX) and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie


Drake University Students selfie after #ChalkboardConversation Lunch Chat!


esidential Candidate Hillary Clinton walking the rope line.

At each stop on our Road Trip to the White House 2016, we are bringing music, food and our chalkboards. As you eat, drink and revel in the sound of good music, we want you to share your thoughts on what you want the next President to work on.

Texas State University students joining the party, sharing what they want my next President to work on.

The more people at the party, the louder the music and the more amps we will have, as our boards travel the country to amplify your thoughts on this election year!

Have dinner with us, and share on our social media platforms the issues you want the next President to steer our country towards!  Engage in a discussion, knowing that your thoughts will be heard! The more of us that talk, the louder our voice becomes. We don’t need political party affiliations or big donations to make a difference. We are one nation, and our numbers will speak volumes. The more we party, the harder it is the for anyone to ignore us!

It’s time to change the narrative from what media and news outlets tell us to care about. We want leadership that understands that we want to play hard, after we work harder. Bring your ideas, appetites for discussion (and food!), and let’s turn up! The party should always come before the politics.

Its time to Party!

Join us for the party, share with your friends and stay updated here!

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