International Social Movements Gathering on Water and Affordable Housing, Detroit, MI
Editor’s note: On this page we bring you some of the voices from the unprecedented and inspiring International Social Movements Gathering on Water and Affordable Housing, held in Detroit Michigan in May. In this conference, people came together to share experiences nationally and worldwide on the struggle to make access to clean water and housing a human right.
“I live in West Virginia. I didn’t think people had it as bad as we do. My heart goes out to you. Not only does our water unite us, but our struggles unite us. I buried my father at 52 years old. I buried so many family members. Raising my children in Appalachia means I have to watch our rivers and streams turn orange from chemicals and heavy metals. Last year, we had a major chemical spill, 300,000 people were poisoned. People turn on their faucets and the water is black. I am a coal miner’s daughter. I am a mother. And I am a proud Appalachian woman. I am here to stand with our brothers and sisters in Detroit. Let’s take our water back, our lives back, and our heritage back. These corporations do not own us. We, the people. It’s not about our skin color. We are human beings. This nation is fueled by the blood of my people. Nobody should be denied water. Appalachia stands with you. We protest, we rally, we fight our leadership that doesn’t stand with us. We need national collaboration. We need to take it to the streets.” — Paula Swearengin, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC)
“In 2012 the city stopped sending out water bills. Now residents are getting water bills for thousands of dollars. The bills are attached to your property taxes and you can lose your home. Now they want to dissolve the entire city of Highland Park, absorb it into Detroit, so we have no say so. All this was done behind closed doors. I wasn’t an activist or a politician. I had to do something. My goal was to wake up people. I started a newsletter, joined with other people fighting the same fight. I went to places where people were as mad as I was. If they weren’t mad, I made them mad. In our community we passed out newspapers, blew horns, waking people up, letting them know what’s coming and that this is our fight; in fact, it’s a world fight. This fight will not be won through the avenues that most people think. I wrote letters. I talked to senators, Conyers, etc., and they didn’t respond. If they don’t want to be held accountable, they need to get the Hell out of there. The people will win this fight. —Eban Morales, Highland Park, MI Human Rights Coalition
“In Mexico, we have a 22-year process of privatization of water. My feeling here in Detroit is there is a fascist war against all people. Detroit is an example of the future of the planet. It’s similar to what is happening now in Mexico. We had 150,000 murders. In this context of violence is organized all the privatization and all the plunders. We need unity among the social organizations in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. This is the center of the social war on the planet. We need to exchange information and build international brotherhood.” — Andres Barreda, Mexico