Grassroots efforts by Nicole Hill and Melissa Mays — and the thousands of others fighting alongside them in Detroit and Flint to ensure access to safe and affordable drinking water in Michigan — have galvanized public attention in recent years. But an equally epic battle has been waging in the courts, a slower-paced struggle to stop what is happening in Detroit and Flint and make sure it doesn’t happen elsewhere.
Meet civil rights lawyer Alice Jennings. “If you were to actually order a burger with awesomesauce, it would just be Alice Jennings, sitting on your burger,” Nicole Hill told us when we interviewed her in January. Sharp, commanding and full of laughter, Jennings was among the first to recognize the Detroit water shut-offs as a human rights issue, tipped off by early water warrior Charity Hicks. Ever since, she’s been helping to frame the legal issues that will one day ensure your children — or perhaps their children’s children — have access to affordable, clean, safe drinking water, even as this supposedly renewable resource is rapidly privatized.
“#WageLove” — named for the hashtag water activists use to commemorate the contributions of Charity Hicks — is a rare hopeful story from the Michigan water crisis. But the last before we look at land and housing, coming in May, will look at the widespread impact water profiteers have on public health.
- Personal interview with Alice Jennings, conducted on February 10, 2017.
- “Driver Who Killed Charity Hicks Pleads to Homicide and Leaving the Scene,” Brad Aaron, Streetsblog NYC, March 22, 2016. Accessed March 27, 2017: https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2016/03/22/driver-who-killed-charity-hicks-pleads-to-homicide-and-leaving-the-scene/
- “$3000 Water Bills: Highland Park Residents’ Water Struggles Continue,” Vickie Thomas, CBS Detroit, January 23, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2017: https://detroit.cbslocal.com/2014/01/23/3000-water-bills-highland-park-residents-struggles-continue/
- “Contract for Detroit Water Shutoffs Doubles in One Year,” Joel Kurth, The Detroit News, October 13, 2016. Accessed March 27, 2017: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2016/10/13/contract-detroit-water-shutoffs-doubles-one-year/92031538/
- “UN Officials ‘Shocked’ by Detroit’s Mass Water Shutoffs,” Laura Gottesdiener, Al Jazeera, October 20, 2014. Accessed March 28, 2017: https://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/10/20/detroit-water-un.html
- Michigan Water is a Human Right: Bill Package Summary, downloadable via “Join us at the State Capitol on March 22, for World Water Day!” People’s Water Board, March 13, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2017: https://peopleswaterboard.org/2017/03/join-us-at-the-state-capitol-on-march-22-for-world-water-day.html
Copyright Anne Elizabeth Moore and Melissa Mendes 2017.