While most of Hollywood prepares for the Oscars tomorrow night, directors Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler, along with Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Ruffalo, are spending their time raising awareness about the water crisis that has been plaguing the residents of Flint, Michigan for years.
This morning, they were joined by a panel of national activists and local leaders of the Flint community, to bring attention to the issue duing a live #JusticeforFlint online chat hosted by the Blackout for Human Rights and the National Black Programming Consortium.
Coogler spoke about how he personally identified with the issuse. Growing up in Richmond, California and being exposed to the toxins from a nearby energy plant, he said hehas seen the effects of water and air contamination first hand. The Creed director said that he hopes to “humanize the issue,” adding, “When you identify with a group of people, even when you accomplish levels of personal success, you realize that you can never truly be happy when people that you identify with are still suffering.”
A Flint resident who joined Coogler in the panel added, “Our voices are not heard, this has been going on for a while. My concern is what’s next…These children are going to need a ‘what’s next.’”
Selma director Ava DuVernay has been passionately advocating for the #JusticeForFlint movement on social media, and bluntly reminded viewers and listeners that, “In terms of basic human needs, water is pretty important.”
Ruffalo echoed the directors' sentiments and added that it is their collective responsibility as high-profile people to help drive attention to Flint. “This is us, we have a voice that can carry the world in ways the other kinds of media, an print media, just can’t do,” he said, adding, “We have a lot of power but we don’t exercise it, we’re afraid to exercise it.”
The Spotlight star, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this Sunday’s Academy Awards, was at one point considering joining the #OscarsSoWhite boycott, but has since confirmed that he will attend.
The awareness that is being raised for Flint is already inciting change, as Michigan’s state government has given the green light on a bill that will allocate $30 million to assist with residents’ water bills. Additionally, Obama recently portioned $80 million in federal funding to help with the crisis.
While Ruffalo will be heading back to Hollywood tonight to get ready for the Oscars, Coogler and DuVernay are staying right where they are:
(Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)