Moonlight Black History Month

Award winning movie, Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins portrays a transcendent story of human connection. The movie that has changed the lives of many, including mine, by recognizing several impactful issues in our society. As said by character Juan who takes of young, innocent Chiron, “OK. Let your head rest in my hand. Relax. I got you. I promise. I won’t let you go. Hey man. I got you. There you go. Ten Seconds. Right there. You in the middle of the world.” Moonlight is a ‘timeless story’ that tells the story of a young black man’s journey through life; childhood to adulthood. The main character, Chiron, struggles through identity and race controversies and dilemmas. This movie was detailedly analyzed and interestingly discussed at the University of San Diego in a seminar. As explained in the seminar, the movie illustrates the reality in our world, from bullying in schools to violence in the streets. This poetic piece impersonates the struggles of an African-American individual with himself and his surroundings.

Moonlight had the massive success it did because of how it impacted society. In the 21st century, directors and cinema in general have been afraid to portrait controversial issues in the world. One of the clearest themes of Moonlight is self-identity as Kevin and Paula ask Chiron at the beginning of the movie, “Who is you?” This question is asked and answered various times as the movie develops; however, always discovered through hardships.Director Jenkins was clearly intending to expose the ‘vulnerability and beauty of the black body’, this is demonstrated in the following movie excerpt. “Let me tell you something, man. There are black people everywhere. Remember that, okay? No place you can go in the world ain’t got no black people. We was the first on this planet.” This quote refers to the struggles Africans and African Americans have faced; from slavery to discrimination.

Powerful controversies and opinions were discussed at a seminar following the viewing of the movie. The seminar was led by the African American History Department staff of the University of San Diego, including Dr. Channon Miller. There were profound connections discussed between the movie and the course materials imparted by the leaders.  The first connection involved the difficulties undergone by an oppressed community to progress into a life of freedom and equality. Through hardships, interruptions, and sacrifices, African Americans have been able to surpass the expectations of society. Another connection mentioned by Dr. Channon Miller was the struggle of being oneself and knowing oneself. Enslaved people would have their identities taken away and would be named as their slaveholders wanted. Their identity was the one thing that no one could ever take away, and somehow enslaved people’s owners found a way to take that as well. These invidious actions still have repercussions in today’s generations and how individuals respond to them; with violence and anger.

The themes and narratives of the screenplay Moonlight and the seminar imparted by the African American History Department are significant to the understanding of African American History because they explain in a concise and modern way how history still affects today’s generations. The themes of violence, self identity, survival, and progress in the ‘black community’  are ideal for the exhibition of what have been the steps forward after slavery. African Americans have fought for their freedom and rights; going through the “promise of freedom’, which was from the Civil War to the Emancipation Proclamation to the Freedmen’s Bureau. Moonlight portrays real suffering through a journey of constant predicaments; difficulties that haunt him, leading Chiron to begin a new life. The character wants no connections to his life of the past, while the audience is taking his story to understand what was African American history.

The month of February was Black History Month and I celebrated it by attending the screenplay of Moonlight accompanied by a following seminar; a seminar where the conversations were deep and meaningful. This movie is one that touches the audience’s hearts, but mainly its thoughts. How can we live in a society were we allow drug abuse, mass incarceration, and school violence. These actions are not legally allowed, but permitted. Life is a constant fight for survival, just as it was for the human beings taken away from their homes and families to initiate a life of incarceration and slavery. “Based on the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight is both a disarmingly, at times almost unbearably personal film and an urgent social document, a hard look at American reality and a poem written in light, music and vivid human faces.” Moonlight is a representation of unbearable suffering, and what for many is a sensible experience that would not like to be recreated.

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