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Will Detroit's Water be Privatized or Recognized as Commons?

The Detroit Light Brigade protesting against water shut-offs in Detroit. (Photo: Occupy Wall Street via Twitter)

When it comes to a person’s fundamental needs being met - nothing is more basic and human, than to share.  Right now the people of Detroit are being attacked by an unelected regime that represents the interests of the banks and large corporations. Their latest campaign has been to turn residents’ water off. Approximately 300,000 people shut off from water, because this makes sense in their corporate model. Detroiters sharing with neighbors hits all-time high.

Water is life.

We are all 85% water.

Water is a Human Right.

Happening right now in Detroit, next to the Great Lakes (25% of the fresh water for the world), under the guise of bankruptcy; residents are being targeted and pushed out of their homes and  subjected to unreasonable rate hikes, in a bid to ultimately privatize Detroit’s water.

"We are not saying that the services of running water should be free, we are saying it should be affordable and accessible by all, and we have put forth the Water Affordability Plan to that end, which was approved by our city council," says Priscilla Dziubek, of the Peoples Water Board. This plan is self-funding and graduated much like the tax system where no one pays over a certain percentage of their income on water.

There is also an insidious double standard in the way that people are being treated when compared with corporations.  Corporations are not being threatened with shut off, yet many owe thousands. Families are being deprived of water for as little as $150 arrears, regardless of past payment history. This nominal amount can have dire effects.  Water shut-offs can lead to major health problems, home foreclosure, and removal of children by the state. The massive scale and rate at which these shut offs are occurring bespeaks an ulterior motive: further debilitation of the people of Detroit and an assertion that the water should be managed and controlled by a private corporation.

The U.N. agrees and stands with the people of Detroit. U.N. Statement.

The sharing community in Detroit is mobilizing in several ways.  Folks from all walks of life and intersections are working together to foster compassion and empowerment among neighbors.  

“We are waging love in our community,” says Lila Cabbil of The People’s Water Board. “We are working with many groups setting up compassion centers within the community.” In addition to weekly Freedom Friday rallies to raise awareness, PWB works on policy and created a water affordability plan for Detroit.

The People’s Water Board advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water, and the following tenants:

Water is a human right and all people should have access to clean and affordable water.

Water is a commons that should be held in the public trust free of privatization.

We the People of Detroitis collaborating with several groups in creating a pilot community water station inside of the Dexter/ Elmhurst Community Center this Saturday 2:30-5:00pm and are looking for more spaces to set up community water stations.

Another example of promoting solidarity came via a punk band concert last week…. “we were contacted by Ramshackle Glory, and asked to speak on the water issue at their show in Detroit.  They offered to split the door 50-50 with us in support of the emergency water relief work, says Sarah Coffey, a community organizer. “They believe in in the importance of sharing privilege and resources with community, and set a great example of how we can choose to interact with each other.”

The Detroit Water Brigade, a member of The People's Water Board is hosting a weekend of Water Awareness Saturday and Sunday 6/28 and 6/29 from 12-5 at Jakobi Ra Park (Woodward @ Avalon in HP). Neighbors will be able to get information from organizations like Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Eviction Defense, the Sierra Club and many others - not only on emergency relief, but also water conservation and sustainability and offer the opportunity to get involved. Detroit Water Brigade is setting up neighborhood water distribution hubs and helping people with rainwater collections systems.

While corporations create plans that discount humanity, and tend toward destruction; the PEOPLE are joining together engaging authentically and creating new systems that lend towards collective thriving.

Detroit: Water from Halima on Vimeo.

Halima Cassells

Halima Cassells is an artist who lives in Detroit, Michigan.

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