As teachers and researchers of communication, we understand that different media channels resonate with audiences in different ways, to inspire, motivate, train, and provide resources to enable people to take action. Film has a particular ability to “make real” stories and emotions connected to social issues that scholarly publications and presentations might not. At the same time, social media and websites can “package” these stories and emotions in ways that a traditional documentary film, usually upwards of 30 minutes, often cannot do. This is why the Detroit Water Stories project opted for a “webisode model” to supplement the various scholarly and community-facing products that we are also co-producing with our partners and research participants.

Teaser for Detroit Water Stories project Webisode Series

This page (and our accompanying YouTube channel) will host a variety of webisodes that highlight, dissect and convey different aspects of the complex and resilient stories of Detroit’s water affordability crisis. Please contact us if you would like to contribute to the webisodes in any way. All footage and audiovisual elements have either been purchased or voluntarily contributed by participants/owners (with due citation of their contributions). We are grateful to all our community partners, oral history participants, and others who have helped us in this effort. Below are the webisodes currently finished.

Episode 1: Teaser
In October of 2014, in the midst of Detroit’s bankruptcy, a team of researchers from the United Nations visited the city and charged its leaders with human rights violations on an “unprecedented scale.” Starting in 2013, as many as 27,000 low-income residents, the “most vulnerable and poorest,” were being denied access to a vital resource because of their unpaid water bills—often caught between paying for their water or other necessities like food, shelter and electricity.
Reverend Roslyn Bouier is the Executive Director of the Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry, and a vital Water Warrior to protect the water rights for all Detroiters. Read/Watch oral history interviews with Rev. Roz and Minister Theretha Dixon from the pantry here.
Learn more about Detroit youth have stepped up to protect their water security. This episode, edited by five student team members of Winter 2021’s COM 5900 class, profiles three initiatives – youth programs at the Green Door Initiative, lead testing of water pipes by We The Youth of Detroit (in collaboration with Freshwater Future and We The People of Detroit), and Replenish Detroit’s deliveries of hygiene products and water at the Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Read/Watch oral history interviews with Donele Wilkins, Latia Leonard, and three intrepid Warriors from Replenish Detroit (Shanmin Sultana, Hafsa Usman and Manna Chowdhury) featured in this video here.
The COM 5900 students who edited this webisode are: Amber Rasho, Dwanna Ross, Sheldon Grimes, Christopher Acea, and Dunamis Archer.
Learn more about how the mass water shutoffs and the water affordability crisis in Detroit are not standalone problems, but connected to larger problems of infrastructure and public investment. The solutions must also be similarly interconnected, and involve re-hauling and creating new water infrastructure, rethinking water rate billing structures, and encouraging green storm-water facilities. Read/Watch oral history interviews with Erma Leaphart-Gooch, Quentin Turner, and Greg McPartlin featured in this video here.
This episode is edited by five student team members of Winter 2021’s COM 5900 class: Amber Rasho, Dwanna Ross, Sheldon Grimes, Christopher Acea, and Dunamis Archer

Additional webisodes planned include:

  • “Understanding how we got here”: Historical and legal reasons behind the high cost of water in Detroit, from the 1950s through 2014 (Bankruptcy)
  • “Assistance is not affordability”: Detroit’s water affordability crisis and mass water shutoffs, 2014-2020
  • “Standing on the shoulders of giants”: The legacy and impact of Mama Lila Cabbil (1944-2019)
  • “Lending a hand”: Grassroots organizing for water deliveries and bill payments
  • “Preaching beyond the choir”: Countering misinformation and disinformation

Please contact us if you are interested in editing and/or co-producing these webisodes (and others) with us. You may email us at rahul.mitra@wayne.edu. Thank you for your time and feedback.