April 18, 2024


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‘I advocate for kids across America’ says Little Miss Flint at Billboard Music Awards


FLINT, MI — Not many teens get to walk the walk alongside icons like Mary J. Blige or DJ Khaled.

Or even meet rising artists like Jack Harlow or Doja Cat.

One Flint teenager did just that.

Mari Copeny is a “Changemaker.”

Eight years after the start of the water crisis, 14-year-old Copeny, also known as Little Miss Flint, still fights to right the wrongs that happened in Flint.

Copeny’s community work has grown immensely and has been noticed numerous times by state and national officials and organizations.

On Sunday, May 15, at the Billboard Music Awards, Copeny was honored with the Changemaker award.

She is not only the first female to win the award, but also the youngest to ever receive it.

The Billboard Music Awards Changemaker honor is given to pop culture figures that speak truth to power through their commitment to individual action and leadership. They are socially conscious, politically aware, ever-present in their community and charitable with time, crucial resources and influence to improve the lives of others, the awards organization stated.

She stood on the same stage and accepted an award among a star-studded list of performers and honorees alike, including Janet Jackson, Travis Scott, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Silk Sonic, Megan Thee Stallion, Heidi Klum, Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, Dixie D’Amelio, Bad Bunny and more.

RELATED: Michigan teen to be honored at Billboard Music Awards for environmental activism

Walking in as the flashes of cameras captured images, Copeny even met some of the stars, taking pictures with DJ Khaled, French Montana and Giveon.

Copeny wore a dress by Flint’s own Shay Oliver and sneakers airbrushed by Legendary, which read “America has a water crisis.”

Her name was called to the stage by Teyana Taylor, who gave her the Changemaker award before Copeny delivered a nearly four-minute speech.

The speech was genuine, heartfelt and about the issues she stands for, including justice for Flint and its children, breathing a voice into representation in race, gender and age and fighting back against the Supreme Court’s decision on potentially overturning Roe v. Wade.

Here is Copeny’s speech in full:

Thank you, Billboard Music Awards. It is an honor to be recognized as both the first female and youngest person to ever receive this award. Thank you to my family, my team and every single person that has supported and amplified my voice and mission.

Thank you to the kids back in Flint who motivate me to continue to fight. And a special thank you to my friends over at Hyrdoviv, who understood my vision and made it into a reality of my very own water filter.

I don’t do the work I do for accolades and clout, I do it for the kids back home in Flint who are still dealing with the affects of being poisoned by water eight years later. I do it because I know first-hand what it feels like to live with toxic water, what it’s like to not be able to take a bubble bath, what it’s like seeing my baby sister get rashes that resemble chemical burns from the water coming out of our faucets.

And I know what it’s like when leadership on all levels fails you over and over again because people don’t take elections seriously.

Unfortunately, women across the nation will know the pain and disappointment that marginalized communities face every day even more intimately if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. America has a water crisis because of its long history of neglecting low income communities, but some people in charge would rather spend their time and power to dictate what women can and cannot do with their bodies. It’s dangerous and also very weird.

Elected officials and judges are in place to help citizens and fix wrongs. When government priorities are misguided, we must speak out. There is no time to wait.

I advocate for the kids across America because people who look like me always get the short end of the stick. The individuals in this room have the power to reach the world and influence millions. I challenge you to take action, and do way more than just applaud this speech. Thank you.

After accepting her award, she had the opportunity to meet one of her favorite artists Doja Cat, who took home the award for Top R&B Artist.

RELATED: Watch, listen to the speech in full here.

Copeny joins previous Changemaker recipients, which include Trae The Truth and Killer Mike.

She first wrote to President Barack Obama in March 2016 challenging him to visit the city to experience the water crisis first-hand.

RELATED: Meet the girl whose letter on the water crisis brought Obama to Flint

The letter to the President prompted him to visit Flint and survey the devastation for himself, which ultimately led to approval of $100 million dollars in federal relief funds for the city.

Her work in the Flint community and successful crowdfunding campaigns have allowed her to raise more than $250,000 and distribute more than one million bottles of water to city residents.

To date, she has raised more than $600,000 for her Flint Kids projects. These projects include giving out more than 17,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies, hosting community movie screenings, arranging annual holiday events to deliver thousands of toys and countless other events centered around children in the city.

RELATED: ‘Little Miss Flint’ gives away 1,000 backpacks to local children

Some of the highlights of Copeny’s work include:

  • Copeny partnered with water filter company Hydroviv to donate and distribute her very own high-capacity lead removal filters to families and child-centric organizations in Flint. Every dollar raised for her filter provides the equivalent of 160 bottles of water. To date, she has raised $627,000 for her filters and has shipped them out all over the United States.
  • She was named to the U.S. Delegation to the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, making her the youngest delegate ever selected.
  • Copeny is also a Youth Ambassador to the Women’s March on Washington, served as chair of the board of directors for Kid Box in 2019, and is an active member of 18 x Eighteen, an initiative to get young people to vote once they turn 18. She is a member of the Michigan Department of Education Student Anti-racism advisory board and a member of the Flint Youth Justice League, an advisory board through Michigan State University to advise on issues related to the kids of Flint.
  • Outside of her work in activism and giving back, Copeny is a varsity cheerleader and is competing for Miss Michigan Teen USA.

The awards were announced in a live broadcast on NBC from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and also streamed live on Peacock. The show was hosted by Sean “Diddy” Combs.

Read more from The Flint Journal:

Westwood Heights Hamady celebrates 2022 prom at Flint Farmers’ Market

New Standard Academy celebrates prom on a yacht

Beautiful gardens highlight 34 acres of historic Michigan estate open to public

This spicy specialty burger is back in Michigan and will keep you salivating

Michigan teen to be honored at Billboard Music Awards for environmental activism

This 11-year-old Michigan boy with autism is a ‘walking success story’

‘40 under 40′ seeks nominations for rising leaders, entrepreneurs and influencers in Flint area


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