The 2017 Oscars were lighter on politically charged speeches than almost anyone was expecting, but when Barry Jenkins and Tarrell Alvin McCraney won Best Adapted Screenplay for Moonlight, they both stepped up to the plate.
Wearing a blue ribbon in support of the American Civil Liberties Union, Jenkins began with the usual thanks to his agents and his publicists. But then he moved into shouting out the city of Miami and specifically referred to himself and McCraney as “two boys from Liberty City,” the housing projects where they both, then unknown to each other, grew up.
“I tell my students that I teach sometimes, ‘Be in the love with the process, not the result,’ ” Jenkins said. “But I really wanted this result, because a bajillion people are watching, and all you people out there who think there’s no mirror for you, that your life is not reflected, the academy has your back. The ACLU has your back. We have your back. And for the next four years, we will not leave you alone. We will not forget you.”
McCraney, who towered over Jenkins in a tuxedo with a red ribbon on his lapel, picked up the baton, dedicating their shared Oscar to “all those black and brown boys and girls and non–gender conforming who don’t see themselves.” With Jenkins and McCraney’s win, the Oscars became the first whose broadcast featured more than three black winners, but as Jenkins suggested in his speech, that fight for that kind of acknowledgement—not only in terms of which individuals are recognized, but whose stories are worthy of being told—is one that has to be fought every day. For the next four years, and beyond.