We are The Backward River team, members of the Freshwater Lab at the University of Illinois Chicago, an interdisciplinary consortium founded and directed by Rachel Havrelock. As artists, city planners, writers, scientists and scholars in Chicago, we bring a multi-faceted approach to reimagining a thriving watershed with equitable access to a healthy river system. Our team formed in May 2020, amid record flooding in Chicago and the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the urgent need for addressing the environmental and public health impacts of our current water infrastructure, we created and designed The Backward River. During a time of global pandemic, economic meltdown, mounting violence toward Black and Indigenous people of color and the rise of a civil rights movement, we studied how the Chicago Area Waterway System produced the city and conditions in which we live and began to envision their transformation.

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