Short Film: MOTHER

A look at raising children and fighting back against air pollution in Southwest Detroit

By Lauren Santucci

Many people are aware that Southwest Detroit is Michigan’s most air-polluted neighborhood. The statistics are bleak—with high rates of asthma, emphysema, and poor birth outcomes. It's also a place where residents find themselves in a position of having to choose between their community and their health.

The video centers on Thomasenia Weston, who lives in a house located a few blocks from I-75. Thomasenia raised her daughter and is now raising her two grandchildren in this house, and all three generations suffer from severe asthma.

We learn how Thomasenia has navigated the challenges of raising her family amidst high levels of air pollution. Now, as her health and that of her grandchildren worsens, more air pollution is expected with the completion of the Gordie Howe Bridge in 2022.

Yet Thomasenia, who lives two blocks from the City’s declared “bridge impact area”, is not eligible for a city housing swap program. Nor is she eligible for city assistance with air filtration or updated windows.

This short film functions as a portrait of the realities of life in a neighborhood with toxic air quality. It is also a look into how government and industry have failed this neighborhood, and how a woman is forced to advocate on behalf of herself and her community.

This film was made with support from the Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL), a program of Wayne State University.

Lauren Santucci is an independent visual journalist with the goal of humanizing social and environmental issues through personal stories. View more of her work on her website www.lauren-santucci.com

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