On Oscar night, most of the film industry is in Hollywood, celebrating itself and the year in film. Millions more are at home watching the party. But this year, two of the leading lights among filmmakers–Creed director Ryan Coogler and Selma director Ava Duvernay–are going to be in Flint, Michigan, instead. The two rising filmmakers (Duvernay signed on to direct Disney’s new adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time, while Coogler is set to helm Marvel’s Black Panther) will be joined by singer Janelle Monae, actor Jesse Williams, and comedian Hannibal Buress, who’ll be hosting the #Justice4Flint fundraiser that Coogler’s activist collective Blackout for Human Rights is throwing.
The news of the event comes from Buzzfeed, which notes that while the event does coincide with the Oscars, that’s not intended as a confrontational choice: according to the site, “Coogler said Feb. 28 was chosen because it fell on the final weekend of Black History Month, and that the date overlap was a coincidence.” Black History Month certainly makes sense as a peg for an event that raises money and awareness for the situation in Flint, a city which is 56% African-American and which is facing a historic crisis after citizens learned about the extent of the lead in the water supply–a direct result of a risky switch from Lake Huron to the Flint River as the source of water.
That’s probably why the event is called #Justice4Flint instead of just #Water4Flint–and why the star power can attract some extra attention to the crisis at hand. And while Coogler’s statement makes clear that this event isn’t intended as counter-programming to the Oscars, it’s also probably true that the scheduling will lead to some extra attention for an event that stands in sharp contrast to an Academy Awards ceremony that’s been tagged as #OscarsSoWhite since the nominees–which didn’t include Coogler, Straight Outta Compton, or a single actor of color for any award–will help raise some extra awareness about the situation. (At the very least, had Coogler been nominated for his work on the critically-adored Creed, he might have had other plans that weekend.) Either way, though, the situation in Flint is an ongoing crisis that needs all of the help that it can get–and if Coogler, Duvernay, Buress, Monae, and Williams all find themselves with a free night during the Oscars, they can certainly do some good in Michigan.