Amariyanna "Mari" Copeny has been engaged in activism for almost half of her life. At 8 years old, Copeny, who would become known as "Little Miss Flint," wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama asking him to bring much-needed attention and aid to the Flint Water Crisis in her Michigan hometown. Five years later, Copeny continues to fight with incredible goals on the horizon. In fact, with a presidential run in her sights, you could say she's just getting started.
Copeny, now 13, is still driven by a strong desire to bring clean water across the country. For her birthday last month, she encouraged followers to contribute to an ongoing Go Fund Me where she could facilitate the placement of high-quality filters in communities impacted by poor water quality. She continues to raise her voice by speaking at Black Lives Matter protests, engaging with high-profile politicians, and collaborating with her fellow organizers. Oh, and did we mention she's also helping kids get the school supplies they need before classes start in the fall?
Copeny is one of four youth climate activists teaming up with Gap for the brand's Be the Future campaign to motivate other young people to raise their voices. She took some time to chat with POPSUGAR about her continued focus on clean water, her hopes for the future, and her advice for other teens looking to get involved. Read our conversation below.
POPSUGAR: You've been fighting for clear water for communities nationwide for years now. What keeps you motivated and staying positive?
Knowing that I am not sitting around and waiting for the government to fix it helps to keep me going. Knowing that I decided not to wait until I grew up to face the problem head-on and offering a solution to those living with toxic water right now. I know that I am changing lives all across our country.
PS: Your clean water fund on Go Fund Me has raised over $325K — and counting! What are you able to use those funds for?
All those funds are being used to help provide state of the art high capacity filters that give clean water to those that have contaminated water. So far we have been able to raise enough to provide the equivalent of over 52 MILLION bottles of water, all without adding a single plastic bottle into the environment. I have a team of mostly kids across the country that are helping to distribute these filters in their communities.
PS: Last year, you called on presidential candidates to do a town hall with youth. What would be your first question in a town hall like that?
What are you going to do to make other politicians finally step up so us kids can focus on just being kids?
PS: I hear you want to campaign for president yourself in 2044. What changes do you hope to see in our country before you run?
Well, I would hope that by the time I am able to run that our country has fixed this terrible water crisis so many are dealing with coast to coast. I also hope that the hate that runs through this country goes away.
PS: Why is it important for young people to speak up today?
If young people do not speak up now about things that affect our lives, then we may not get a chance to grow up, because so many of those in charge are not thinking about the youth and our futures.
PS: Do you have any advice for other teens looking to make a change in their community?
If it is something that means a lot to you, go for it. Chances are there are other teens just like you that want the same changes and they are just waiting for someone else to take that first step.
"Please stop telling us we don't know what we are talking about because we are kids."
PS: What do you think adults could learn from young activists right now?
It's time to give the youth a seat at the table. It's time to listen to us, learn from us, and follow our lead. Please stop telling us we don't know what we are talking about because we are kids. In most cases we are fighting for our lives and our future.
PS: What other young people (activists, actors, etc.) inspire you?
So many activists inspire me, my best friend and fellow young activist Naomi Wadler is amazing, she uses her voice to speak up for Black girls that tend to get forgotten about. Yara Shahidi is also an amazing role model and friend. There are a couple of other youth activists in this campaign with GapKids, like Jermone Foster II and Levi Draheim. Both of them are fighting for this planet and refuse to give up, which is really inspiring.
PS: What gives you hope for the future?
Knowing that there is an entire generation of youth that is fearless when it comes to standing up for what is right.