As a Black man, I never really knew myself…until now. As a Black man, I never really came in or out to myself…until now. Until I saw the film "Moonlight."
Before, I just knew myself as a Black man. Defined by the confines of two worlds - one of evocative Blackness and stoic masculinity, these two threads woven together to create the American narrative we Black boys and we Black men all have to follow. Leaving no room for sadness, pain, vulnerability or questioning.
But there I was, sitting in the theater, watching Chiron grow up, from staring onto the ocean to interactions with his drug-addicted mother to reuniting with his long-lost kindred best friend. I was frozen in my seat because I was witnessing a Black man standing in vulnerability and truth. I saw myself in Chiron. Not in its entirety but I saw another Black boy coming into and out to himself. Standing in his vulnerability and truth.
From the moment the credits roll, I slowly rose out of my seat. As I walked out of the theater and placed my hoodie over my head, I realized that now was the time. I realize I would finally know myself…and the world would know me as well. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would make this decision. I thought I would just continue through life never knowing the real me. Once I saw "Moonlight," I knew I couldn’t run away or hide anymore.
I had to come out.
By doing this, I knew I would be walking into an unforgiving territory. I was going against the narrative of Black masculinity that I spent my whole life trying to understand. But it was tearing me up on the inside holding in this secret, especially when this secret was the key to me embracing myself. This gift of freedom was given to me by Barry Jenkins and "Moonlight."
Late Sunday night, at the 89th Academy Awards, "Moonlight" took home three awards, including Best Picture. Directed by Barry Jenkins and based off of co-writer’s Tarell Alvin Craney’s own play, "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue," the film’s portrayal of Black masculinity and vulnerability was unlike nothing else ever shown on film.
The film also broke barriers in terms of its betrayal of Black gay masculinity. Often times, Black gay men are betrayed through the lens of the ‘Down Low’ lifestyle coming from a place of shame. "Moonlight" does the exact opposite by coming from a place of transparency. As the audience, we accompany Chiron throughout his entire journey, from childhood to adolescence and finally into adulthood.
The Oscar victory for "Moonlight" is more than just an artistic one. More than just one of acceptance and inclusivity. Black and brown boys largely seen as pariahs in terms of gender and race found their place in this victory Sunday night. We see ourselves in Chiron. From a misunderstood boy harboring resentment and anger for the world he didn’t make to an invisible man cloaked in false ideas of masculinity and manhood for survival.
We see him finally break through the limited societal boundaries that define Black male performativity. If he could do it, so could we.