Activists host faith, WSU leaders for ‘World Water Day’ in Detroit

    River water
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    Dozens of left-leaning, grassroots organizations on Friday are hosting interfaith leaders in Detroit to speak about water shutoffs, concerns over environmental contamination and other water-related issues across the state.

    Charles H. Wright Museum | Wikimedia Commons

    Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders plan to speak at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit about water access and affordability, privatization, environmental contamination and Line 5 — an Enbridge oil pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

    That includes Rabbi Alana Alpert, Congregation T’chiyah, director of Detroit Jews for Justice; the Rev. Roslyn Bouier with Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry; Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk with the Islamic Organization of North America and more.

    Wayne State University also has agreed to offer a 90-minute workshop at the event, with professors and graduate students educating attendees on how to “advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources,” according to the university.

    Alana Alpert

    “We really want to bring community members together and to give them an opportunity to be involved and to learn and be interactive … to feel like they’re able to come away with actions and steps that they can take to hopefully better the position that we’re in around a lot of these issues that we’re dealing with across the state,” said Shannon Abbott, event spokeswoman.

    Abbott said the coalition of organizations holds an event every year on March 22, which usually involves lobbying lawmakers in Lansing on water issues.

    The groups advocate for Line 5 to be shut down, as well as more action on environmental issues like ending Nestlé Waters North America’s bottled water withdrawal in Northern Michigan and stricter water conservation practices, Abbott said.

    They also urge more action on addressing widespread pollution from a suite of carcinogenic man-made chemicals, known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

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    This year, March 22 fell on a Friday, when the state Legislature is not in session. The organizations therefore decided to host interfaith leaders in Detroit, including workshops and art activities “so everybody could find a way to interact,” Abott said.

    The event will cost about $2,000 total for food and drinks, and was mostly made possible through donations from the People’s Water Board Coalition and Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, according to Abbott.

    Abbott said more than 300 people have registered for the event, although she hopes to see more.

    Michael Gerstein
    Michael Gerstein covers the governor’s office, criminal justice and the environment. Before that, he wrote about state government and politics for the Detroit News, the Associated Press and MIRS News and won a Society of Professional Journalism award for open government reporting. He studied philosophy at Michigan State University, where he wrote for both The State News and Capital News Service. He began his journalism career freelancing for The Sturgis Journal, his hometown paper.

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