There have been artists that one remembers for their art. You applaud their work, you respect and love them. It’s strictly an appreciative emotion and nothing more. And then there are artists who blow you away in the manner you never thought was possible. Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Viola Davis are some of them who have managed to touch lives not just through the medium of their acting but through their brilliant minds and beautiful souls. And, we are so very pleased to see another such artist come forth to quash an oppressive, bigoted society. Moonlight actor Mahershala Ali, who won Outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role, delivered a very powerful speech at the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Moonlight, a film that centres around gay masculinity with a black male lead, was one of the most highly acclaimed films of 2016. It has received eight nominations for the 89th Academy Awards including Ali’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Ali expressed what he took from his character, Juan, as he explained the repercussions of being battered by persecution. “I think what I’ve learned from working on “Moonlight” is we see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves and what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community. Taking the opportunity to uplift him and to tell him he mattered, he was okay and accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that.”
“We kind of get caught up in the minutia and the details that make us all different, I think there’s two ways of seeing that. There’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique, and then there’s the opportunity to go to war about it. And to say that that person is different from me and I don’t like you so let’s battle. My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 yrs ago. But I tell you now, you put things to the side and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. And that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important,” Ali said.
While his contemporaries highlighted everything wrong with Donald Trump’s immigration ban, Mahershala Ali didn’t target the new President yet, by speaking of the agony of oppressive discrimination, he highlighted the error in Trump’s ways. Everyone is an individual beyond their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and the President of the United States needs to understand that the minorities need upliftment not because they’re entitled to it, not because being black or being gay makes you special but because the world is hell-bent to shoot them down at every opportunity they get.
Mahershala Ali didn’t speak of politics but, he told us why it is essential that we retain our humanity. We need to make minorities feel welcome and that takes work. I’m not talking about waterboarding, or huge walls but, compassion. I hope POTUS understands the importance of humility and empathy before he leads the world back into the 50s.