Globally recognized as “Little Miss Flint,” Mari Copeny is a 16-year-old activist from Flint, Michigan, born on July 6th, 2007. She first gained attention when her heartfelt letter to President Obama regarding the Flint water crisis led him to visit the city. This pivotal visit by President Obama resulted in the approval of $100 million in relief funds for Flint.
Mari’s candidness and youthful honesty have challenged political leaders, highlighting the repercussions of neglectful governance. She has been a beacon for discussions on environmental racism, shedding light on the struggles faced due to state negligence. Beyond Flint, Mari has been a national youth ambassador for the Women’s March on Washington and the National Climate March. She furthered her commitment to social justice and also became an advocate against bullying, collaborating with Trendsetters Productions.
Mari’s leadership roles include chairing the 2019 Kid Box board of directors and being a part of the Flint Youth Justice League. She has also been mentored by Yara Shahidi and is associated with the youth organization, Eighteen by 18. It was Mari’s voice that resonated at the March for Science, where she spoke about the implications of the Flint water crisis on her community. A doll modeled after Mari, a testament to her influence, was created by the doll company, Lottie.
Mari has given back to her community, beyond raising awareness, raising over $700,000 for various Flint Kids projects. She has distributed over 19,000 backpacks filled with school supplies and organized numerous events centered around children in Flint. Her initiatives include a book project that promotes authors of color and a letter campaign that garnered global support for Flint’s children. The efforts of Mari also led to the collection of over $250k, which facilitated the distribution of over a million bottles of water to those in need. Recognizing the environmental impact of single-use bottles, Mari collaborated with Hydroviv to create a water filter, raising over $700k for its production.
Major publications like Teen Vogue, The Guardian, VICE, TIME, and The Washington Post have spotlighted Mari’s activism. Mari aims to run for the US presidency in 2044, with aspirations to make a broader impact. On her personal website, Mari identifies as a “Philanthropist, Activist, and Future President.” She believes in the power of her generation, stating, “My generation will fix this mess of a government. Watch us.”
Focusing on the Flint water crisis, Mari began her journey into activism at the tender age of 8. At present, Mari is in her junior year of high school and enjoys hobbies like skateboarding, drawing, cheerleading, and tumbling. Emphasizing the importance of self-care, she takes breaks to rejuvenate by spending time with friends and listening to music. Mari’s journey hasn’t been without challenges, from dealing with detractors to managing academic pressures. Her advice to budding activists is straightforward: “Go for it, everybody has to start somewhere.” Focusing on her mission and proving naysayers wrong, Mari’s resilience is evident in her approach to criticism. Emphasizing the power of youth in enacting change, her unwavering spirit and dedication serve as an inspiration to many.