On Sunday night, as Sylvester Stallone tries for a supporting actor knockout at the Academy Awards for his performance in “Creed,” that film’s director and co-writer, Ryan Coogler, will not be sitting ringside.
Instead, Coogler -- along with “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, singer Janelle Monae and others -- will be in Flint, Mich., for a benefit aimed at supporting that city’s beleaguered residents as they suffer through an ongoing water crisis that has been the focus of widespread outrage.
“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,” Ryan Coogler said in a statement to Buzzfeed, which first reported news of the event.
Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and others have vowed to boycott this year’s Oscars ceremony over the lack of diversity among the nominees. But while “Creed” has been one of the films at the center of this year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Coogler said the timing was coincidental. The date for the event -- which will be hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress -- was chosen by Blackout for Human Rights, an activist collective founded by Coogler, because it falls on the last weekend of Black History Month.
Earlier this month, Stallone told reporters at the Oscar nominees luncheon that he had asked Coogler whether he should attend the Academy Awards or show solidarity with those boycotting the ceremony.
“I said, ‘If you don’t want me to go, I won’t,’” Stallone said. “He said, ‘I want you to go.’ That’s the kind of guy he is. He wanted me to stand up for the film.”
Though the issue of the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees, within the academy’s ranks and in the film industry as a whole has dominated the conversation this Oscar season, it remains to be seen how extensive the boycotts and protests surrounding Sunday’s ceremony will be.
April Reign, who first launched the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag on social media, has called for people to join her in live-tweeting the 1999 film “The Wood,” starring Omar Epps and Taye Diggs, available on Netflix, instead of watching the Oscars.
Demonstrators from the civil rights group Project Islamic Hope held a protest outside the Oscar nominees luncheon and have asked those attending the Academy Awards to wear a black armband or ribbon in support of diversity.
On the other hand, some academy members who are upset over new rules that the organization’s leadership’s instituted to boost diversity in its ranks -- rules that could lead many older voters to be shifted to emeritus status -- may also decide to sit out this year’s awards show, albeit for different reasons.
“I’ve heard several say they’re not going,” one veteran academy member told the Los Angeles Times recently. “I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be in the room when [host] Chris Rock tries to be funny about something that is not funny.”