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Week of January 11, 2010

Closing event

MLK: Documentary examines water-rights campaign

Four decades after Martin Luther King Jr. marched for civil rights and economic fairness, the struggle for a more humane world continues with the fight for environmental justice.

From Africa, Latin America and Europe to America’s poorest cities, politics is played between the haves and have-nots when it comes to determining who has the rights to water. Nowhere is that story truer — and perhaps, more startling — than in Highland Park, where 38 percent of the city’s population lives below the poverty line.

During her investigation into the struggles of Highland Park residents to keep the city’s water system from being privatized, documentary filmmaker Liz Miller was astonished to find what she calls outrageously high water bills in a city within miles from one of the largest supplies of fresh water in the world — the Great Lakes.

In her compelling documentary, “The Water Front,” which came out nearly two years ago, Miller probes what has become an emerging crisis: how to allocate water during global warming and at a time when fresh-water supplies are growing scarce as demand is increasing around the world.

The film will be shown 5 p.m. Jan. 21 at Helmut Stern Auditorium at the U-M Museum of Art. Associate Producer Curtis Smith will be on hand for a post-screening discussion. Smith, a U-M grad who received a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, has spent years working for affordable housing in metro Detroit.

“The Water Front” views the problem of a resident who leads a grassroots campaign, claiming that affordable water rights are a human right. Through Miller’s lens, what emerges is an emotional story of how a community in crisis comes together to find a solution to a common problem.

Highland Park, which is surrounded by the City of Detroit, is facing bankruptcy and a financial crisis. A state-appointed emergency financial manager has been appointed to steer the city toward solvency. At one time, the city was home to Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corporation, and had more than 60,000 residents.

The event is sponsored by the MLK Planning Committee and UMMA.



Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, on her greatest passion: “Working to improve the physical and virtual accessibility to all of our community, regardless of individual physical or mental challenges.”


  • Arts & Bodies, Dec. 18-Jan. 15, 2010, Work•Detroit, 3663 Woodward Ave, Detroit
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