What Flint Teaches Us About Black Activism Now
This was 1971. Forty-four years later and 54 miles up the road, I stood side stage left at the Whiting Auditorium in Flint, as the evening’s rumor had just been verified. Stevie Wonder had just shown up and was standing about ten feet away, and it looked as if he was going to join Janelle Monáe onstage. And because this is Stevie we’re talking about, there would be singing, but also some talking because Stevie always has something to say.
The night was billed #JusticeForFlint. On Oscars Sunday, celebrities from both the worlds of music and Hollywood made their way to Flint, to raise awareness and money for those in the city impacted by the city’s contaminated water. Even after a year or two of ever-more-remarkable political responses to civil-rights crises, it was a remarkable event. We tend to be skeptical of celebrity activism — it’s easy to question the real commitment of somebody who goes home to lavish comforts, especially when the rallying is so often of the fly-by kind.