Community screening of “13 in the Hole” documentary April 25 at Redford Branch Library

April 6, 2012

Watch the Trailer
DETROIT – A special community screening of the documentary “13 in the Hole: A Story of Detroit's 48217” will take place on April 25 from 5:30 pm to 7:45 pm at the Redford Branch Library located at 21200 Grand River. The documentary takes a look at how residents on the blocks intersecting Pleasant and Leibold Streets were affected over a two-year period by Marathon Oil's daily shipping of over 3,000,000 gallons of waste water from its newly expanded tar sands oil refining facility, through the public water main running under Pleasant Street and to Detroit's Waste Water Treatment facility.
The documentary focuses on an area of 48217 called “The Hole” where 13 residents who were left behind following Marathon's 2009 buyout of the nearby Liddesdale block – making way for expansion of the Waste Water Treatment Plant's Combined Sewerage Overflow facility – continued to suffer from toxic gases identical to the ones used in the tar sands refinery process suddenly emanating from their basements. Caught directly between Marathon's new tar sands refinery and the city's new CSO, two of the 13 residents – Regina Smith and Adrienne Crawford – tell their stories about growing up in The Hole only to find themselves ignored and under siege when they joined other community members in protesting being literally poisoned in their own homes.
Mrs. Regina Smith resident of The Hole
“Some of the most important messages of the documentary are the clear connections that are made,” said Dr. Angela Allen, who worked on the project as part of the Detroit Future Media Workshops along side Dr. Conja Wright, Rhonda Anderson of the Detroit Seirra Club's Environmental Justice Office and EMEAC's ReMedia Program Coordinator Patrick Geans-Ali. “First, no one should underestimate the experience of a community resident and investment in community residents should be the first focus of any sustainable revitalization plan, including the advocacy and mobilization of residents in nearby communities.
“Second, that the knowledge that just one EPA regional staff person can have that impacts the ability of a neighborhood to gain justice. Third, all politics are local. What the conversations are here will be the same that will take place in Wiliston, North Dakota, in communities engaging fracking and other environmental justice impact policies shared by city, state, and federal engagement.”
With most authorities ignoring their initial complaints, residents of The Hole turned to the Sierra Club's Anderson and 48217 community activists like Theresa Landrum, Dr. Delores Leonard and Vincent Martin among others for support. The citizen-led movement eventually had to enlist the services of the environmental watchdog group Global Community Monitoring to prove their claims and win some measure of support from local media and political leaders. Even with that, Marathon has yet to reach an agreement to resettle many of the remaining residents of The Hole.
Detroit's 48217 zip code sits along the city's industrial corridor and was found to be the most polluted area in the state of Michigan and the third most polluted by a University of Michigan study. Residents suffer from disproportionately high levels of a complete range of health problems as a result. The documentary takes a look at one acute crisis situation as a means of bringing greater awareness to the environmental health hazards facing all of Southwest Detroit – if not the city as a whole.
“The most important part of working on the documentary for me was two-fold: one, listening to fellow activists and learning from them to be a part of putting this very important and timely story together,” said Dr. Allen. “Second, building the story from the perspective of the individual residents and connecting it to the larger local, domestic and international context is key. That's been my goal over 17 years of community development work, and it was fulfilling and rewarding to be a part of this project because there is so much more to be done.”
The documentary, which is still very much a work in progress, was produced as part of the inaugural Detroit Future Media workshops. The producers are hoping to get community feedback in hopes of making the project as historically accurate and socially responsible as possible.
“What I'm most looking forward to about the upcoming community screenings is the response from neighborhood residents who may be facing similar environmental and business relationship issues within their neighborhoods,” Dr. Allen said. “I think this is a great time to weave together stories across Detroit neighborhoods so business owners (corporate and small business) as well as city policy makers get a strong and clear picture from residents that the story of just a few residents in one neighborhood is representative of the disinvestment of an entire major metropolitian city. Investing in even just a few residents means investing in the quality of life of an entire major metropolitian city. It's about time community respect was honored.”