Water, Housing, and Land in Detroit, MI (ongoing)

Continuing the long-running investigative comics journalism series (previously called Ladydrawers) as a collaborative endeavor, Melissa Mendes and Anne Elizabeth Moore are in the midst of a 16-month series for Truthout that explores water, land, and housing rights in and around Detroit, Michigan. Through in-depth interviews, shoe-leather reporting, deep research, and brilliant, thoughtful graphics, the series seeks to explore challenges to survival and personhood in a contemporary American city.

The water series has now been published in entirety:

  • “Where There Is No Water” offers a look at the Detroit water shut-offs through the eyes of water activist Nicole Hill.
  • “We’re Not Gonna Drink That” describes the Flint water crisis in an interview with researcher and organizer Melissa Mays.
  • “#WageLove” introduces readers to the legal responses these two related crises have spurred, largely at the behest of civil rights attorney Alice Jennings.
  • “Making Us All Sicker” presents recent findings that Detroit water shut-offs are increasing the likelihood of water-borne diseases in the Detroit Metro Area.

The housing series is now complete:

  • “Scenes From the Foreclosure Crisis” follows three individuals as they navigate the complexities of property tax foreclosures in Detroit, a process that has claimed one in four homes in recent years.
  • “House on Junction I” narrates the history of housing rights from the perspective of a single, 110-year-old, single family home in Southwest Detroit up to the mid-1960s.
  • “House on Junction II” concludes our story from the Southwest Detroit home of Joseph Bates, partially demolished while he was still in residence.
  • BLIGHT!“offers a close investigation into this little-understood—and surprisingly profitable, for some—housing designation.

The land series began publishing in early 2018:

  • “Digging In” introduces readers to a beloved local eatery and the challenges it faces acquiring land and healthy soil.
  • “The Bid” looks at Detroit’s failed pitch for Amazon’s second headquarters, and the vast swaths of land it promises the retail giant in exchange for almost no benefit to city residents.

Lectures on and presentations of this work have been held at the Humboldt Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library and AmadoraBD in Lisbon, Portugal. Upcoming programming is scheduled to take place at the Museum of Contemporary Arts Detroit (MOCAD); Bowling Green State University; Columbia College of Art and Design; and ICON10, the illustration conference.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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