By Sheryl Estrada
Ryan Coogler, director and co-writer of “Creed,” will not be in the audience during the 88th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday, even though one of his film’s stars, Sylvester Stallone, is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Instead, he will be in Flint, Michigan, supporting #JusticeForFlint, a star-studded concert and fundraiser to benefit residents of the city suffering from its toxic tap water.
The free public concert is presented by Blackout for Human Rights, an activist collective founded by Coogler with the goal of combating human rights violations in the U.S.
The event will begin at 5:30 pm ET on Sunday and stream live on the website Revolt TV. (Comcast NBCUniversal, No. 30 onDiversityInc’s 2015 Top 50 Companies for Diversity, supported the launch ofthe music cable network in 2013.)
Director Ryan Coogler
Approximately 57percent of Flint residents are black; 37 percent white; 4 percent Latino; and 2 percent includes Asian and American Indian residents. More than 41 percent of residents live beneath the poverty line. In April 2014, the state decided to save money by separating Flint’s water system from Detroit’s water line.
Water from the Flint River was not treated with anti-corrosion chemicals. As a result, the tap water has had severe bacterial and lead contamination. For almost two years, between 6,000 and 12,000 children in Flint have been exposed to toxic drinking water.
“With the #JusticeForFlint benefit event we will give a voice to the members of the community who were the victims of the choices of people in power who are paid to protect them, as well as provide them with a night of entertainment, unity, and emotional healing,” Coogler said in a statementto BuzzFeed. “Through the live stream we will also give a chance for people around the world to participate, and to donate funds to programs for Flint’s youth.”
The 29-year-old director said the date Feb. 28 was chosen for the event because it fell on the final weekend of Black History Month. He said it was coincidental the date overlaps with the Oscars airing at 8:30 pm ET on ABC.
Coogler’s film “Creed” stars actor Michael B. Jordan, 28, as Adonis Creed. He is the first person other than Stallone to play a lead in the “Rocky” franchise. Stallone’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor is the only Oscar nod the film received.
For the second year in a row, the nominations did not recognize any minority actors, which caused the resurgence of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on social media. As a result of backlash and boycotts, the Academy announced avague plan stating it would “double” its “diversity,”without releasing thedemographics of the people who vote for the Oscars.
“Creed” is of the films seen as snubbed by the Academy as its nonwhite actors, and its Black director, were shut out.
Jordan won the 2016 National Society of Film Critics’ award for Best Actor for his role. The film has earned more than $100 million in domestic ticket sales as well as widespread critical acclaim.
Coogler also directed and wrote the 2013 film “Fruitvale Station” based on events surrounding the death of Oscar Grant, a Black man killed in 2009 by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Jordan plays Grant in the film.
Director Ava DuVernay
The #JusticeForFlint event is also coordinated by comedian Hannibal Buress, recording artist Janelle Monae, actor Jesse Williams and director Ava DuVernay.
“The poisoning that is happening in Flint is one of the most egregious human rights violations in American history,” DuVernay said in a press statement. “Blackout for Human Rights stands with all those affected by the water crisis, and is committed to supporting efforts on the ground to find sustainable, long-term solutions and, most importantly, achieve justice for the people of Flint.”
Many thought DuVernay was snubbed by the Academy last year. She did not receive a Best Director nomination for her 2014 critically acclaimed film “Selma.” And David Oyelowo, who plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the film, was not nominated for Best Actor.
Blackout for Human Rights also hosted “MLK Now,” a New York City event celebrating Martin Luther King Day.
#JusticeForFlint (@UnitedBlackout) February 23, 2016