From this week’s assigned readings and screenings, a particular quote really got me thinking about generations that will follow us and about our legacy as artists and as humans. In the trailer for “Living Downstream” Sandra Steingraber says:
“I believe our grandchildren will look back on us now and marvel that our economy was once dependent on chemicals that were killing the planet and killing oursleves and they will think of it as unthinkable. An environmental human rights movement is the vision under which I labor.”
As a twenty-one year old millennial, my daily worries include getting to class on time, meeting deadlines for internship applications, preparing for auditions, figuring out how to balance seven different rehearsals during the week, making sure I work enough shifts during the week to make enough money for groceries and rent, and the list goes on. But not for a second do I stop to think about having children and grandchildren, let alone think about what my grandchildren will think when they look back on the era during which I grew up. It was terrifying and worrisome to hear Steingarber utter those words, because it made me realize how, as a generation, we are so selfish and we only think about the present moment.
We feel as if it is not our responsibility to leave the planet in a better state than when we found it. We are so consumed by worrying about how many likes our picture is going to get on instagram, or will Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Oscar, or whether Kylie Jenner’s lips are real or fake, that we don’t even acknowledge the amount of pain and misery that is present in the world.
The more I think about it, the more I say shame on us and it motivates me to do something and be more active.
With that being said, I’ve been digging more into the concept behind my project, which, as I explained in class, is dealing with environmental racism within the Flint Water Crisis. Tonight, there is a benefit show taking place in Flint, Michigan called #JUSTICEFORFLINT with several famous directors and performers taking the stage to support the victims of the Flint Water Crisis.
Director Ava DuVernay (‘Selma‘) is one of the main supporters of the benefit and during an interview with Michigan Live she said, “We have to be in the world, we can’t be in glass houses typing away and collecting our check.”
The fact that majority of the supporters of the event are Black artists speaks to the fact that race is a big component of the crisis. The event is taking place on the same night as the Academy Awards Ceremony, which has also sparked controversy as several Black artists have been protesting this year’s Oscar nominations with the slogan #OscarsSoWhite.
While our White artists are attending the Oscars, celebrating White excellence in Film, the Black artists are standing up for a damaged community that is predominantly Black and making this cause a priority. Now this act is praise-worthy and is something that I look up to and feel inspired by.
After hearing about the controversy of #JUSTICEFORFLINT and the Oscars taking place on the same night, I thought back on to a chapter from Merchants of Doubt in which Conway and Oreskes say, “Sometimes reopening an old debate can serve present purposes” (Conway & Oreseks, Chapter 4). For those of you who might not know, Ava DuVernay was jibbed from an Oscar nomination for her film ‘Selma’ in 2015, which initiated the #OscarsSoWhite movement last year. Now, a year later, the movement is still alive and more powerful, and once again, black artists are jibbed from a nomination. However, by attending the Flint Water Benefit instead of the Oscars tonight, DuVernay and other Black artists are making a statement that Black people have bigger issues to deal with than the Oscars. When a brotha and a sista are in danger, we jump right in and we support them full force. Therefore, #JUSTICEFORFLINT can be seen as a response to #OscarsSoWhite, even though it is claimed to be a total coincidence that the two events are taking place on the same day.
I know some of us still feel like there isn’t much that we can do to help save our planet, but what we can do is educate others and raise awareness in hopes that we can spark a fire in people that will lead to them wanting to be more active and so on.
The more I read news articles and hear about updates on Flint Water, the more I begin to piece together ideas for my project and #JUSTICEFORFLINT has definitely inspired me to think about incorporating different mediums of performance into my project. I’m thrilled to explore how I can use my talents and creativity to stand up and say something about environmental racism.