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Documenting The Decline of Oakwood Heights In Photos

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Southwest Detroit resident and activist Erik Howard grew up in the area adjacent to the Boynton-Oakwood Heights neighborhood and has lived there his whole life. So when he heard that Marathon Petroleum Company was planning a massive resident buyout program in 2012, he picked up his digital camera and headed over to the incredible shrinking neighborhood to document its transformation.

Described this year by Al Jazeera America as Michigan's dirtiest neighborhood, Oakwood Heights, which borders the River Rouge, has been overwhelmed by the expansion of industry for years. It's resulted in property values to tank and the community to be choked by pollution.

What Howard has since he embarked on what he calls an environmental justice photo essay has been a mix of residents packing up and moving out and a small number of others who are steadfast about sticking it out in the 'hood until they are forced out.

Howard says he's hopeful that Marathon will create a buffer between neighborhoods and the company, resulting in healthier, cleaner Detroit neighborhoods. If the buyout plan was just a plot for the company to expand on its polluting ways, he says his photographs will be on hand to show future generations the people and places who were squeezed out of an otherwise vibrant community. Check out the rest of Howard's photo essay on his website, under "Oakwood series."
· All Oakwood Heights coverage [-Curbed Detroit-]