Coogler, Flint mayor hope benefit raises awareness, funds

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A benefit for residents affected by the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint features some big names but is a grass-roots effort at its core, “Creed” director Ryan Coogler said Sunday.

Coogler, actor Jesse Williams and about a dozen other people opened the #JusticeForFlint event on Oscar night by talking about the water crisis and thanking the crowd. Those participating in the Flint benefit or attending it are helping raise money and awareness about the water problem, Coogler said.

None of the opening speakers mentioned the Academy Awards, where Coogler’s “Creed” was a favorite to win the best supporting actor Oscar for Sylvester Stallone’s reprise of his iconic Rocky character. It was the sole nomination for the critically acclaimed film, which many saw as yet another example of how the film academy is out of step with today’s audiences.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, who spoke to the crowd after Coogler and other organizers left the stage, said she was grateful for those who put on the free show.

The fundraiser hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress was also live streamed. Ava DuVernay, who directed the civil rights drama “Selma,” and singer Janelle Monae were also expected to attend.