The 10 best moments from Ryan Coogler's powerful Justice for Flint event
On Feb. 28, the Oscars were the last thing on director Ryan Coogler's mind.
The Creed filmmaker was in Flint, Michigan, throwing a star-studded event to raise money and awareness for the city's horrifying water crisis. The night was full of amazing performances from the likes of Jazmine Sullivan, Dej Loaf and Janelle Monae, as well as powerful speakers like Jesse Williams and numerous citizens of Flint.
Here are some of the most powerful moments from the event.
1. The Flint community speaks about its hardships
The night wasn't all about celebrities and star-studded performances. Ryan Coogler introduced the crowd to Nayyirah Sharif, a community organizer who brought along a mother who shared a disturbing personal story about how the contaminated water caused her to lose her unborn twins. In addition, both of her other children now have lead poisoning — and she's terrified of how it'll affect them "five, 10, 15 years down the line."
Later on, Sharif also brought out three Flint children: Brogan, 10, Ian, 10 and Evan McEntire, 10. They spoke about how their school was handling the crisis. Evan's school reportedly didn't tell students about it until two weeks ago, and hasn't shared any donated water bottles with them.
"They forced us to buy water from vending machines," she said, shocking the audience.
2. Ledisi's beautiful performance
The singer delivered powerful covers of "A Change is Gonna Come" and "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water."
She also performed one of her own songs, "Alright," inspired by a time when people were telling her "you're not pretty enough, you're not good enough, you'll never fit in," she said.
3. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha rallies the crowd
Dr. Mona Hanna-Atisha is largely to thank for bringing Flint's water crisis to . The pediatrician fought state officials to expose the city's lead poisoning, bringing much-needed awareness to the water crisis.
She was introduced at the Flint event by actor Jesse Williams, who called her "an absolutely critical voice in repairing this situation and the damage."
Hanna-Attisha was a galvanizing presence, delivering a short, but impactful speech about the importance of the event for the city's spirit.
"Flint needs a huge group hug...we need to laugh and we need to be happy," she said.
Most of her speech focused on the "resilient" children of Flint and how the only thing they "did wrong was live in a poor city."
4. Flint Youth Poets take the stage
A group of young poets performed a long, powerful piece dedicated to the city, accompanied by a cappella singing and tap dancing. They called out Governor Rick Snyder and politicians "who fill their pockets." It was also brimming with optimism, with lines like "we shine best in dark places."
The performance ended with a simple prayer, adding a bright touch to a goosebump-inducing set.
5. Musiq Soulchild turns it into a party
Singer Musiq Soulchild completely transformed the energy of the room during his performance, thrilling the crowd with beautiful renditions of "I Do" and "Just Friends." Soulchild got the crowd up and moving, dancing and cheering along.
He also brought out Robert Glasper, who had performed earlier, to do the deliciously jazzy "Ah Yeah."
6. Jazmine Sullivan brings the house down
The powerhouse performer walked out to excited screams. She jumped into a exciting rendition of "Bust Your Windows." Afterwards, she reminded viewers to donate, saying, "We stand with Flint ... this could have been any of us."
She then performed "Forever Don't Last" and "Need U Bad," impressing the crowd with stunning vocal riffs.
7. Vic Mensa electrifies with political music
Chicago native Vic Mensa crushed his set, bouncing around onstage to perform a new version of his song "U Mad" but with completely new, Flint-centric lyrics like "If it was the other way around/They wouldn't let it ride for a single night." The new words turned the party banger into a legitimate call to action, even shouting out police brutality and the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.
He also performed a new song called "16 Shots," a crushingly powerful song about police brutality. The title and chorus are references to Laquan McDonald, an unarmed black teen who was shot by police 16 times in Chicago.
8. Janelle Monae lights up the room
You can tell the crowd was waiting all night for this performance. Janelle Monae brought everyone to their feet, transforming the event into a full-fledged concert. The singer was wheeled onto the stage in a white straitjacket, tearing out of it to start singing "Queen," the funky track off her latest album. Her backing band all wore "Justice for Flint" shirts. Monae floored the room, with people crowding around the stage to get a closer view of the show.
She also made a short speech after a few songs, saying Governor Rick Snyder "needs to be ashamed of himself."
"This is not right," she declared.
She then turned the energy back up, performing "Tightrope" and "Cold War." Then, she announced a special surprise guest...
9. STEVIE WONDER
The superstar performer came out to deafening cheers, surprising everyone in the audience. Wonder spoke for a bit before performing, discussing the water crisis.
"Two years of an entire city being poisoned," he said. "That's a heartbreak."
Then he launched into "Love's in Need Of Love Today," followed up with a duet of "Higher Ground" with Monae. Toward the end of the performance, dozens of people joined them onstage, turning the performance into a big group celebration.
10. Thousands of dollars are raised for the people of Flint
Throughout the night, director Ava DuVernay tweeted about how much money had been raised, aiming for a goal of $100,000. By the end of the night, the goal had nearly been reached.
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