Documentary Photographer and Videographer Alyssa Schukar is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From her project ‘Led In The Soul‘. To see Alyssa’s body of work click on any image.
The West Calumet Housing Complex, which is currently home to about 1,200 people, is located on a 79-acre Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site where a USS Lead facility was located in East Chicago, Indiana. Up until 1985, a lead refinery, a copper smelter and a secondary lead smelter were also in the area. The houses were built between the late 1960s and early 1970s.
East Chicago is zoned close to 80 percent heavy industrial, and the local government relies on the patronage, jobs and tax revenue that the oil and steel industries bring. However, many jobs disappeared when the steel industry modernized and shifted overseas in the late 20th century, leading to extensive job loss for the working class. People there have a long, complicated relationship with industry — and its environmental legacy will affect generations to come.
Lamont Anderson embraces his son Lamont Anderson Jr., 8, at the West Calumet Housing Complex. Anderson Jr.’s blood lead levels test results were above the CDCís 5 mg/d threshold for action. After living in the complex for more than a decade, the family moved to Gary, Indiana earlier this summer
Claudette Jackson grew up in West Calumet. In 1983, she moved her young family to the housing complex where they still live. After a fruitless search for an apartment in Northwest Indiana, she’s stopped looking. “Everybody’s trying to move out of here at one time. Where are you going to go? There’s nowhere,” she said.
Logan Anderson, 19 months, plays with his older brother Lamont Anderson Jr., 8, at the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana. Anderson Jr.’s blood lead levels test results were above the CDCís 5 mg/d threshold for action. After living in the complex for more than a decade, the family moved to Gary, Indiana earlier this summer.
From left, friends since childhood, Janae Peyton, 13, Ashanti France, 12, Irene Wooley, 13, and Tniyah Foxx, 12, swing at the park near the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana. The playground is part of the Carrie Gosch Elementary School, which has been turned into an EPA office. “All my memories are here. I’ve got to move away from my friends,” Peyton said.
Lorenzo “Bambam” Jenkins, 12, holds his two-year-old niece Laylay Striblin while spending time with his friend Keanthony Brown, 14, at the park near the West Calumet Housing Complex. Jenkins, who has lived in the complex for two years, says he’s upset that he has to move but that he’ll keep up with his friends like Brown if they are able to stay at the same school.
Stephanie King embraces her youngest son, Josiah King, 3, whose blood lead levels test results were above the CDCís 5 mg/d threshold for action. Two and a half years ago, King left Chicago’s South Side to find a safer environment for her four sons and one daughter. ìIf Iíd have known the dirt had lead, he wouldnít have been out there playing in it,” King said.
18-year-old brothers Antwon Jones, at left, and D. Jones pose for a portrait near their home in the West Calumet Housing Complex. “This is where we hang out every day. We are still here with the lead,” D. Jones said. Though city officials learned the extent of lead and arsenic levels in the soil in late May, very few residents have moved out as of the first week of October. Many say it has been hard to find an equivalent home in the area.
Andre Bass, 20, has lived in West Calumet his whole life but will move to Merrillville, Indiana, next week. He plans to stay active in the political movement that aims to give voice to the West Calumet community affected by lead and arsenic in the soil. “I’m marching just like Luther,” he said.
Sherry Hunter grew up in the West Calumet Housing Complex and now owns a home in neighboring zone two. The EPA has classified three zones of concern related to the 79-acre superfund site where a USS Lead facility once stood. Now an activist in the Calumet Lives Matter movement, Hunter said she’s most concerned for senior citizens who are struggling to find new homes. “They don’t know where to go. They weren’t given an option,” she said. “People should have a right to say what they want to do.”
Nayesa Walker and her 7-year-old son Kash Lott wait for a school bus to drop off his two younger siblings at the West Calumet Housing Complex. As a child, Walker helped create the mural that covers the neighborhood’s community center. Walker and other residents tried to stop the neighborhood’s demolition. “We feel like we’re just being thrown out,” Walker said.