This Week on American Black Journal:

Weathering the floods: Detroit neighborhood faces uncertain future due to climate change

Across Detroit the effects of climate change are evident. In the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood on the city’s lower east side, overflowing stormwater drains, contaminated waterways and flooded basements are just a few examples of how the city’s aging infrastructure struggles to keep up with our changing climate.  

The city’s combined sewer system is the crux of the problem. The increasingly heavy rains bring stormwater together with sewage waste leading to the overflows into streets, basements and the backyard canals in this historic neighborhood. Residents are now also measuring the toxicity levels of the canals where Detroiters have been able to fish and swim. 

In recent years the city has tried to protect the community from record high waters on the Great Lakes and the Detroit River, installing Tiger dams and sandbags, but with lake levels now receding, flooding from the sewer capacity problems is a bigger concern. Federal funding may be able to help alleviate the problem, but will it be enough? Some residents now are suggesting some new technology should be considered to fix the problem.  

During Earth Month, One Detroit Senior Producer Bill Kubota visited the hard-hit Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood as residents there explore possible solutions. He talked with Jay Juergensen, who’s leading the neighborhood advocacy efforts, along with Myrtle Thompson, John Myers and Blake Grannum, who endured the flood damage and clean-ups from the 2014, 2016, 2019 and 2021 overflows. He also talked with Detroit Housing Authority Director Tyrone Clifton about the unpredictable nature of change that may occur as the city and residents learn to navigate uncharted waters in the future.

Local environmental advocates step up to fight climate’s impact on Black Detroiters

Whether physically, recreationally or culturally, the changing climate is a problem that affects Detroit residents across the board. Heavy rains, extreme heat and air quality issues continue to impact residents, disproportionately affecting the city’s Black and brown residents who are often left to deal with the problems on their own. And as they’re finding, changing the effects of climate change in the city will take a lot of resident advocacy.  

For Earth Month, “American Black Journal” and BridgeDetroit have teamed up to examine the impact of climate change on people of color and low-income residents in Detroit. Host Stephen Henderson leads a community-focused roundtable discussion with BridgeDetroit environmental reporter Jena Brooker, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition Executive Director Jamesa Johnson Greer, and Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice Executive Director Laprisha Berry Daniels.  

The roundtable panelists discuss how climate change is impacting every aspect of life for Detroit residents, putting their health and safety at risk. Plus, they talk about the health issues arising from flooded homes and air pollution regulations, as well as the importance of residents speaking out on environmental issues in order to bring change. 

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Watch American Black Journal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.