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water struggle
Water struggle in Highland Park Michigan.
By Liz Miller

September 25, 2008 marked the launch of a six-month film tour of “The Water Front” documentary to forty cities and universities around the Great Lakes with Michigan based Welfare Rights and Washington, D.C. based, Food and Water Watch.

The Great Lakes region, home to 34 million people and 90% of the U.S. fresh water supply, is vulnerable to corporations that aim to exploit water resources for profit rather than ensuring safe, clean and affordable water. The region is an ideal location to launch a high profile outreach campaign using “The Water Front” as an organizing tool. The film demonstrates how deferring repairs of water infrastructure leads to enormous problems, which often drive city officials to consider different forms of privatization that will, counter to corporate claims, only make the problems worse.

Our objective of the tour is to help educate and mobilize groups, including college students, about the issues of infrastructure funding and environmental justice. To accompany the tour, we have developed new resources including a viewing guide, a take action guide, and materials to host a screening.

To download visit

To reach youth audiences, we have also launched a “Remix Competition” in connection with The Great Lakes Water Front Film Tour.  We are asking participants to remix “The Water Front” theme song, “Please Mr. Waterman” written by legendary bluesman, Joe L. Carter.  His song, “Please Mr. Foreman” was the trademark of the 1960s Black labor movement. With the added verve of youth artists, “Mr. Waterman” can do the same for the water movement.  Rap artists like Mos Def and Public Enemy are taking a stand on water privatization and we hope that youth artists will follow the lead in turning up the volume on water and environmental justice.  The competition runs through December 16th and first prize is $400 cash.

The tour has just started and we are still open to groups or communities wanting to join in. To see a map of the places we have been and are going visit our site at or or
contact us at: or

The struggle against privatization and for water rights is taking place on many fronts:

According to a recent poll, nine of out ten Americans believe that clean and safe water is a national priority that deserves federal investment.  Food and Water Watch is calling for a National Water Trust Fund. The Water Trust Fund being drafted in Congress would provide a consistent source of funding to states to support the replacement, repair, and rehabilitation of drinking water infrastructures. It is critical that a fund like this only be available to publicly-owned and operated water systems and not become an incentive to privatize. Similarly we don’t want consumers paying for the fund as resources should come from those parties that most burden the systems.  For more information visit

Welfare Rights initiated a Truth Commission to record the testimonies of individuals living in the Detroit area without the basic right to water. They then developed a report to be delivered to the United Nations. Neighboring students made a video of the process which can be seen at: For information visit

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is supporting struggles around the world fighting constitutional battles over water as a human right. They are also supporting the work of groups in California and Boston fighting water battles and are hoping to bring organizers from Highland Park to share experiences with other cities. Visit

Finally, tireless Canadian water advocate Maude Barlow was recently appointed senior water adviser to the United Nations. She plans to lobby to have access to clean water recognized as a basic human right.

Liz Miller
Liz Miller

 “The Water Front” is the story of an American city in crisis. It follows the heated struggle between residents, water workers, and corporate financial managers to spotlight the right to affordable water. Highland Park, Michigan—the birthplace of mass production and Henry Ford’s assembly line—is now a post-industrial city on the verge of financial collapse. The state’s Emergency Financial Manager has raised rates, shut off residents’ water for unpaid bills, and there are plans to privatize the water-treatment plant. “The Water Front” follows an emotional grassroots campaign, and foreshadows the challenges people around the world are beginning to face: How will we maintain our public water systems and who can we hold accountable? What are alternatives to water privatization? To purchase a copy of the film or to host a screening visit Bullfrog Films at

Studs Terkel
Studs Terkel
Studs Terkel, known as the heart of Chicago, as the voice of the American people, died October 31, 2008. The People’s Tribune adds its voice to the many thousands around the world in paying tribute to this remarkably talented, principled person.

There is no need here to restate the literary achievements in this outstanding life. Newspapers and magazines around the world have done this. We want our readers to know and remember what it meant to live a principled life.

Before WWII Studs was already using his amazing talents on the side of the people. After the war, along with thousands like him, Studs was faced with the McCarthy blacklist. As happened with so many others, agents visited him in an effort to recruit him into the anti-communist crusade. Studs recalled,  “A man comes from New York. He says, “These petitions, your name is on all of them: anti-poll tax, anti-lynching, friendship with the Soviet Union.... don’t you know the communists were behind them?” And he said, “Look, you can get out of this pretty easy. All you got to do is say the communists duped you. You were dumb. You didn’t mean it.” I said, “But I did mean it!” To this day people say, “Oh, Studs, you were so heroic.” Heroic? I was scared shitless! But my ego was at stake. My vanity. “Whaddya mean, I’m dumb?”

Studs understood that the people make America what it is — that they are the wellspring of its culture and sense of nationhood. Tape recorder in hand he set out to rescue and preserve this treasure. By recording thousands of interviews and storing them in a score of books, Studs created what is now known as “oral history.”

Studs could not be ignored. By 1952 he had his own radio program in Chicago. For 45 years on each week-day, Studs hammered away at bigotry and exploitation through recordings and interviews from Big Bill Broonzy to Leonard Bernstein.

In saying farewell to a great peoples’ artist, we should never forget how each day he closed his program with some heartfelt advice to the exploited and downtrodden, “Take it easy, but take it!”


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