Music, Pop Culture

Here’s where celebrities went instead of the Oscars

If you missed this year's Oscars, you're in good company.

As #OscarsSoWhite and a recent study have made clear, Hollywood has a serious diversity problem. For the second year in row, none of the 20 Academy Award nominations for acting went to actors of color, even though there were plenty of possible nominees. In response, many celebrities chose to boycott the Oscars ceremony.

A variety of African-American creatives went a step further: they skipped the Oscars in favor of Justice for Flint, a free benefit concert and rally in support of the victims of Flint, Michigan’s ongoing water crisis. This crisis has disproportionately affected people of color and serves to symbolize the continued presence of institutional racism in America. The event raised over $100,000, with people still making donations after the concert ended.

Justice for Flint was put on by the Blackout for Human Rights Collective, and was spearheaded by directors Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay. Coogler and DuVernay are well-known for directing Creed and Selma respectively, and they are also well-known for having been snubbed for the Best Director nomination for these films. Janelle Monáe, Jesse Williams, and Stevie Wonder were just a few of the celebrities involved with Justice for Flint event. Local residents and activists also took part, sharing their stories of living with Flint’s water crisis.

At the Oscars, many celebrities did use the event as a platform to bring attention to institutional racism, as well as other issues like sexual violence and climate change. But as #OscarsSoWhite has highlighted, the Academy Awards aren’t exactly at the forefront of social progress. Justice for Flint put aside the affluent glamor of celebrity culture to put a human face on the Flint tragedy. The event was a powerful call for us to fight for environmental justice and broader racial justice goals – not just through words, but through direct action.

You can donate to Justice for Flint by texting “Justice” to 83224.