The Rapidian

Parent leader Tabitha Williams reflects on Lead Education Day 2018

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Tabitha Williams, a leader in the grassroots organization, Parents for Healthy Homes, shares her experience and insights after meeting with state legislators for Lead Education Day in Lansing last week.
Tabitha and her daughter, Khadijah on the Capitol steps

Tabitha and her daughter, Khadijah on the Capitol steps /Healthy Homes Coalition

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What is Lead Education Day?

What: An annual event put on by the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MIALSH) to help bring statewide concerns about lead hazards to state representatives.

Where: Lansing, at the Capitol and other government buildings.

When: Typically spring, this year's event was on Wednesday, April 18.

Who: Groups from across the state, including Grand Rapids' Parents for Healthy Homes, met directly with state legislators in their offices.

Why: To help legislators understand the impact of lead hazards happening within their communities and statewide.

Next Parents for Healthy Homes Meeting Monday, May 14 5-7pm

Next Parents for Healthy Homes Meeting Monday, May 14 5-7pm /Healthy Homes Coalition

A sample showing the small amount of lead that can create elevated blood levels

A sample showing the small amount of lead that can create elevated blood levels /Healthy Homes Coalition

I was excited to attend Lead Education Day this year. This event is an opportunity to engage with legislators while addressing issues on lead from many different perspectives, giving legislators insight to what parents, children, and the affected people of the community have experienced with lead.

It is important for people who care about the safety of our children to support this day and utilize their voice because their story will possibly leave a more solid impact than data. That is easily forgotten after listening to hundreds of people.

This year, I felt confident with my voice; I have spent each day growing with education on lead and have heard some hidden community issues that legislators may not be aware of. For instance, I’m able to speak on concerns parents have when feeling forced to choose between affordable housing over safety.

I spoke up this year using real stories of people who are concerned about the safety of their children and suggested ways to resolve some of those issues. I observed people who have never been to Lead Education Day get excited and energized while educating the legislators; they were now the newcomers. Although they came with many different perspectives and experiences, they left with the same conclusion: they are people who care and want to see positive changes that will keep children safe. Going to this event as a group added support from people we have built relationships with. We all gave some expertise. 

Tim Holland, the legislative aide for Representative Jeff Noble, had the most impact on our group. Tim is an expecting father who recently bought a new home which was built before 1978. He showed concern followed by questions and informed us he was not aware of the effects lead had on pregnant women and was surprised on the small amount it took to poison a child. We had two small lead poisoned children in our group that he acknowledged by offering them coloring books. He made us feel comfortable and informed our group on bills that were in place.

Unlike last year, I learned it is important to look over all the legislators bio sheets in the given folder and find out what they represent to help drive their interest while creatively using that same interest to educate them.

After leaving Lead Education Day everyone was organized and ready to take action. It gives you so much confidence to continue your advocacy in keeping our children free from lead. As a group, we leave feeling powerful, supported, and elevated. As an individual, I left feeling that I am helping; I am a part of the solution. I want people to realize they have individual power in their voice and when they include their stories, ideas, concerns, and suggestions at the table, it may carry the main ingredient to the solution. No matter what position you hold, you are valuable and Lead Education Day is just one place that confirms the strength of our voice where we advocate firsthand on legislative issues.

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