My name is Emmanuel Ufuah and I am currently a student at Indiana University, Bloomington. I was born in Indianapolis and raised in Brownsburg, Indiana. I like to make art as I think of art as a way to express myself. I also believe that art has a deeper meaning behind it as art tells stories about the context of the world behind it. When I took this class, I used to think that water was something that was easily accessible. That belief turns out to not be the case. I never realized that life relied so much on water. I hope to learn about water from doing this project and conducting research.
My project is a digital exhibition of artwork about water in Indiana. The project is called water.unalloyed. My digital exhibition consists of artwork with information on the side of it. The information is a little bit of information about some of the black population in Indiana. The process of making the project consisted of me using Google Sites and Google Docs to make my project. The first page is the home page talking about what the project is about. The next page is a series of documents. The documents are recordings of what people have said about water and what water means to them personally. Then, there is a small art exhibition. The artwork is art that I have made about water. Next to each artwork is a little bit of information about Indiana and the black population of Indiana.
The essay part of water.unalloyed goes more in depth about the condition of water in Indiana and how African Americans in Indiana are affected by the condition of poor water. To summarize a bit of the essay, the first part talks about the historical context of Africans and water. The next part talks about the condition of water and present day Indiana. Then, the essay concludes with the future of Indiana and an introduction to a possible solution in the future.
The importance of water to me
Water is important to me because water is life. The human body is mostly made up of water. The Earth is mostly made up of water. Clouds exist as a result of water. People are able to shower and keep good hygiene because of (clean) water. Plants are able to grow with the help of water and the sun. Without water, there is no life. Without water, everything ceases to exist.
When I first saw Pumzi, I thought Pumzi was a cool film. Then I realized that the film had a deeper meaning behind it. The meaning scared me- but the movie put things into perspective. I never realized how much life as a whole has relied on water. Watching Pumzi the second time was when my thoughts started to form slowly. Slowly I started to think, maybe it is possible to save the world. I think Pumzi serves as a tale of the possible future if humanity keeps on going the way it does with wasting resoucres and polluting lands.
The picture is a representation of what water means to me. To me, water is a symbol of life. Life is something that is consistently flowing even if we do not realize it. In the storm, I believe that water represents all of us. We clash with eachother, support each other, and live with each other. Earth is full of water, the human body is full of water. No water, no life.
Water and African Americans in Indiana
November 6th, 2022
Clean water is an issue that has been plaguing America for decades now. There are many communities that do not have access to clean water at all. Many of those communities being marginalized communities such as Hispanics, Asians, and mostly African Americans. I was born in Brownsburg, Indiana- one of the states within the state of the United States of America. Living in a predominantly white suburban area, my family and I were privileged enough to have access to clean filtered water. Having access to clean filtered water does not appear to be the case for most families living in Indiana. I will talk about the dirty water in Indiana and how dirty water affects African American communities in Indiana. I will talk about the historical context behind the water of the African American Community, how water affects African American communities in present day Indiana, and the future of water in African American communities of Indiana as a whole if the issue of clean water in Indiana is not addressed. Water has always been prevalent in the African American community, and it is important that the history is explored. I am saying that not just as an African myself, but as a citizen in the state of Indiana of the United States.
To start with the historical context of African Americans and water, there is information from an internet archive that talks about the history of water alongside African Americans. The article is called A History of African Americans on the Water and by the Shore: Whitewashed and Recovered by Andrew W. Kahrl. Andrew W. Kahrl is a professor of African American Studies at the University of Virginia. In his article, Kahrl talks about the concept of Whitewashing and how some sports and activities have been labeled white and black through the stories of black surfers from California. The concept of whitewashing dates back to when people were living in the Atlantic on Continents and Islands. People of different cultures came onto the Islands. Joining those same islands in the Pacific, cultures started to merge with each other. In the next part of the paragraph talking about the history of African Americans in water, a race line is mentioned. On page 61 of the journal, the race line is talked about as a concept that took place mostly on the Beach. With the concept of race lines, separating race and discriminating against people of different ethnicities was a priority. The lines involved the erasure of African American culture. Enslaved Africans in South Carolina were described as “despondent”. They were also described as “dispirited groups of Igbo slaves”. On record, these enslaved people would end their lives by drowning in the sea. These suicides that Africans were committing were connected to the trauma that they endured. The enslaved Africans were stripped of their identity, land, and language. West Africans mostly looked to water in an unfamiliar world that they were transported to unwillingly. These groups of people “grew up along riverbanks, near lakes, or close to the ocean” (Kahrl 62). Growing up alongside water allowed Africans to develop skills such as swimming to aid in their “work” and “recreation”. Those who owned slaves took note of the West Africans ability to swim for their own profit. Along the waters were groups of Bondmen. Historically, Bondmen were divers that harvested pearls, salvaged “cargoes from shipwrecks” and cleared “riverbeds”. In relation to water and African Americans, water represented a graveyard in which many had died. Water was also used as an escape from captivity.
From what I have read so far, there have been a lot of problems historically in the African community in regards to water. These were people that were swept from their land and dehumanized. Water, which had served as a symbol of hope and life, turned into a symbol of survival from the people who were willing to oppress and destroy their identity.
In Indiana, there are black populations in areas like Marion County, Lake County, Laporte County, St. Joseph County, and more areas in Indiana that have a black population in spite of being a predominantly white state. African American communities in Indiana are affected by bad water. When talking about the condition of water in Indiana, the condition has to do with substances found in the water. Substances like lead.
Talking about how African American communities in Indiana are affected by bad water, there is a blog post that talks about how the bad water in Indiana is rooted in racism. This article was posted February 1st, 2021. The article is called Indianapolis: When Lead and Racism Are Both In Water. The article is by Benjamin J. Clark. Indianapolis is a city that has lead in its water. The lead does not just come from drinking water. The lead also comes from soil and dust around homes within Indianapolis. In the text about lead, the text mentions how “lead exposure in children can damage the brain and nervous system, cause developmental delays, learning challenges, behavioral issues, and hearing loss” (Clark). Lead also causes damage in the kidneys, brain, affects fertility, and leads to high blood pressure. In the article, there are causes for bad water in Indianapolis. The cause being environmental racism and environmental justice. Talking about the community in Indianapolis, Black Americans are largely affected by living in bad neighborhoods with high levels of contamination. Black and Latinx populations are affected by corporations and governments “collaborating to maintain regulatory noncompliance” (Clark). The government lets these corporations that are polluting these communities of people off the hook to avoid the responsibility for their actions of environmental racism. In the text talking environmental racism, the text says, “environmental hazards follow along racial lines but also many of the meta-processes that have contributed to the Anthropocene, such as industrialization, urbanization, and capitalism, are racialized” (Clark).
With the racialization of neighborhoods, there are acts that affect the black population in America. There is an article by Rebecca Thielle, a writer on the wyfi website. The article is called Report: Indiana has the most polluted rivers, streams of any state and the article was created March 17th, 2022. The website talks about an act called the Clean Water Act of 1972. The act was an act that was supposed to make water “swimmable” and “fishable” in 1983 and free of pollution in 1985. The act was a failure. As the population of the United States increased in size- the rivers, lakes, streams, and water in general became more polluted in the United States. Indiana has the worst water. The state is full of dirty “lakes”, “rivers”, and “streams” in any state. Most of Indiana’s rivers are unfit to drink. There are statistics provided for the unclean water of Indiana. There is a statistic that says that 73% of water is impaired for recreation under rivers and streams. There is another statistic that says 99% of acres of water are impaired for drinking under lakes and reservoirs. On the topic of acts, there was a Safe Drinking Water act in 1974 which promised safe drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water act affects Black communities. In the text of the article, “the research found that majority-black communities have to wait longer for water drinking laws, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, to be enforced” (Bird). The systems that do not follow the act are 40% more likely to be in cities with people of different descent. People as of late are advocating for the change of the Safe Drinking Water act.
I had attended an event talking about the water in Indianapolis. The water in Indianapolis is not in a good condition as most of the water is polluted and contaminated with other substances. The lecturer talked about working together so that Indianapolis can be a better place. She said something alarming. If nothing is done to fix the water that is polluted in Indianapolis, there is a possibility that the clean water in Indianapolis will run out in the next ten years. There are many black communities in Indiana that rely on water. The topic of clean water has been a societal issue in black history. There is a reason which traces back to colonization of countries. When a person is viewed as less than human, the group of people criticize, ostracize, and do everything to dehumanize that person. Some shun them out of fear. Some shun them out of a belief that they are superior. African Americans have been treated as subhuman in not just the United States- but across the world as well. I had a conversation with someone, and they told me that when someone holds a dogmatic view of their own group, and that view is questioned- the response of being questioned is met with violence. The reason why is because they are forced to question their own views of the world. The conversation I had applies to African American history in the United States with water. The ancestors were forcefully transported over the sea in ships and killed in those same seas. Swimming pools in the United States were segregated and African Americans who tried swimming in white pools were beat down.
When talking about Indiana’s future, there is a possibility that Indiana could be waterless. I see a future where Indiana has no water at all. Families will suffer from the lack of water and so will the environment as a whole. Every community in Indiana will be fighting over scraps trying to get their hands on whatever resource is available. I have come up with an idea in a world that is in dire need of water. The idea is a Weather Machine. The Weather Machine is a machine that is able to produce any kind of weather. The weather can be rain in case there is a huge drought, the weather can be sunny so plants can grow, the weather can be cloudy in case the temperature is too hot. The product can exist in a world where water is scarce and the machine expensive. Or, the tool can exist in a world where water is about to be scarce. In a world without water, technology would not work, sanitation would not be possible, there would be no clouds- no technology to work- no food to eat. The world relies heavily on water. Without water, there is no life. Water is essential, and it something that is weaponized globally. A world without water is no world at all.
Bird, Sophie. “Race a Determining Factor in Access to Clean Water.” Indiana Environmental Reporter, 8 Oct. 2019, https://www.indianaenvironmentalreporter.org/posts/race-a-determining-factor-in-access-to-clean-water.
Clark, Benjamin J. “Indianapolis: When Lead and Racism Are Both in the Water.” New America, 2 Feb. 2021, https://www.newamerica.org/indianapolis/blog/indianapolis-when-lead-and-racism-are-both-water/.
Kahrl, Andrew W. “A History of African Americans on the Water and by the Shore: Whitewashed and Recovered.” Journal of American Ethnic History, vol. 35, no. 2, 2016, pp. 61–67. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.5406/jamerethnhist.35.2.0061. Accessed 6 Dec. 2022.
Thiele, Rebecca. “Report: Indiana Has the Most Polluted Rivers, Streams of Any State.” WFYI Public Media, WFYI, 17 Mar. 2022, https://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/report-indiana-has-the-most-polluted-rivers-streams-of-any-state#:~:text=deemed%20%22impaired.%22-,Indiana%20has%20the%20most%20miles%20of%20rivers%20and%20streams%20deemed,coli%20and%20toxic%20algae.