On May 15, fourteen-year-old Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny “will receive the Changemaker Award at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards,” (BBMAs) for her environmental justice activism, becoming the third person to join the ranks of Killer Mike and Trae The Truth, the two previous recipients of the award.
The BBMAs introduced this new prize in 2020, as the nation wrestled with social and racial justice issues during the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by the Minneapolis police. According to Billboard, “[t]he Changemaker honor is given to pop culture figures who speak truth to power through their commitment to individual action and leadership.”
Copeny said, “I’m excited to be honored by the Billboard Music Awards for my community efforts and commitment to highlight America’s water issues. I’m hopeful that this inspires others to fight for what’s right, even when no one else is looking.”
According to Billboard, Copeny “has already demonstrated more social commitment than most people do in a lifetime.” At the nascent age of 8, Copeny wrote a letter to then-President Obama, “challenging him to visit the city [of Flint] to experience the water crisis first-hand.” Copeny’s dare was successful—not only did President Obama respond, “Letters from kids like you are what make me so optimistic about the future,” it also spurred a visit from the President himself, and “ultimately led to approval of $100 million dollars in federal relief funds for the city.”
The above-mentioned efforts were only the tip of the iceberg for Copeny. Through community work and crowdfunding, Copeny has raised over $250,000 for Flint, and distributed “more than a million bottles of water to Flint residents.” This is on top of her work for Flint Kids projects, where she has raised over $600,000 and donated “more than 17,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies, hosting community movie screenings, and arranging annual holiday events to deliver thousands of toys.” These efforts earned Copeny the nickname of Little Miss Flint, and her website byline describes her as “philanthropist, activist, future President.”
Copeny was the youngest delegate to be selected when she was “named to the U.S. Delegation to the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.” Additional highpoints of Copeny’s work include serving “as Youth Ambassador to the Women’s March on Washington…chairman of the board of directors for Kid Box in 2019…an active member of 18 x Eighteen, an initiative to get young people to vote once they turn 18…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.”
Needless to say, Copeny’s accolades speak for themselves, and she has managed to accomplish much with her platform while being a full-time student-athlete as a member of the varsity cheerleading team and a contestant in the upcoming Miss Michigan Teen USA pageant.