Week 8: Water under the Bridge – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 8: Water under the Bridge

During my time in this program, there have been two Tuesday seminars that have stuck out to me (the Thursday seminars all stick out because they’ve all been so creative and fun, even activities I was dreading at first *coughimprovcough*).

The first was Amy Kring’s presentation on the second bridge to Canada, set to go up in Detroit’s Delray community. This presentation hit home, quite literally, as I thought back a few years when this very same bridge was proposed to go over my hometown of Grosse Ile. The backlash against this bridge was loud and immediate. As a child, I figured the idea of this bridge passing over my island was done away with because of the many picket signs, and the fact that the community had just said “no.” Now, with a slightly better understanding of the injustices of the world, I realize that the real reason the bridge did not pass over Grosse Ile has much more to do with the fact that it’s a town that’s 95% white, with a median household income of $95,226, and only 2.6% of people falling below the poverty line. Delray had picket signs. Delray said no. Delray fought harder against this bridge than Grosse Ile ever had to.

The second presentation that stuck out to me was this past Tuesday from the Detroit Food and Water Watch. I had known from the moment I first heard about the water shutoffs in Detroit that they were unfair, but I did not understand the magnitude of it until this presentation. Honestly, the issue is so complex that it would be silly for me to say that after 2 hours of talking about it that I understand now. But it made me angry. Really angry. I’m happy to say that I do understand enough about this issue that I can now shoot down all the folks that demonize the people of Detroit who have lost their water access, claiming that it’s just poor people demanding free water.

Shortly after this presentation, the people living on campus for this program were informed that the water to our apartment building would be shut off for the day. The timing couldn’t have been better. As I listen to people complain about it, I kind of want to scream because 10 hours without water is nothing compared to the people who have been living without water for YEARS. Yes, you may not be able to shower or brush your teeth until this evening, but it’s just until this evening. There is an end in sight. You’re hygiene may be compromised for a day, but people are living this reality for days, weeks, months on end, not knowing when they will be able to turn their faucet on again and have it work. (all that being said, it’s easy for me to say because I’ll be in the office all day where the water is working just fine)

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