Film Director and screenwriter Ryan Coogler is the man on many levels. Aside from his cinematic works, he has proven that activism is just as much a calling as his eye for motion pictures. While the rest of the world watched the Oscars and Chris Rock’s monologue, a large portion of a new generation of activist-minded black creators in film, television and music flocked to Flint, Michigan in support of #JusticeforFlint via a live stream from Revolt TV.
“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 told BuzzFeed, which first reported the news. “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.”
(Creed Director Ryan Coogler, Photo Credit: USA Today)
While the Academy celebrated its lack of true diversity, an outpouring of love from within the African Diaspora’s greatest creative, intellectual and activist diviners came to support the #JusticeforFlint effort, entertaining the crowd and educating those who showed up and tuned in as to the sheer magnitude of this travesty, and the amount of love the country has for the citizens of Flint, a largely African-American suburb of Detroit.
Although it appears as if by design, the timing of the benefit event was not meant to counter the Oscars, but to fall on the last weekend of Black History Month. Black Love was not just a concept last night, but an entity. A living, breathing, life-affirming entity that we all could use a little more of, Flint in particular.
Two years ago, the city of Flint, Michigan stopped piping water in from the Detroit River by way of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and started using the water from the notoriously polluted Flint River.
The last time Flint used the river as a water source was prior to 1967.
From 1967 up until 2014, the Detroit River was Flint’s water supply. Due to government failure and private interests, the people of Flint have been poisoned for two years via the water of the Flint River - a river so corrosive that General Motors stopped using it in the production of its motor vehicles in October of 2014.
However, just in January 2015, water from the Flint River was deemed as meeting all safety and health standards.
The callousness of this act is beyond comprehension. The water, which did not receive any corrosion control treatment, caused lead from pipes dating back to 1917 to leech into the water that was pumped through them.
The most vulnerable to this disaster have been children. Experts believe between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to drinking water with high lead levels and are at high risk of developing a myriad of disorders in years to come.
The foulness is magnified when we find that the residents of Flint are still paying some of the highest water bills in the nation.
A September 2015 study by Virginia Teach engineering professor Dr. Marc Edwards, under a National Science Foundation grant, concluded that everyone’s worst fears were a reality. The city of Flint and the state of Michigan had been falsifying results. The water was contaminated.
The people of Flint were failed by their municipality, the Governor of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. But #JusticeforFlint is a reminder that people really only can rely on one another. That person-to-person paradigm was on full display for this benefit event.
Hill Harper, Jesse Williams, Jossie Smollet and Ava Duvernay are just a few of the many who supported this necessary and truly noble cause.
The affair, hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress, was free to the public and featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Jasari X, Royce 5’9”, Robert Glasper, Mysonne, Musiq Soulchild, Ledisi, Dej Loaf, Tef Poe and many talented young artists from the local population. and was .
Between performances, Flint residents gave testimony about how this historic failure of government has negatively affected their lives.