‘Moonlight’ and Black Permanence

This week, we explore Barry Jenkins’s 2016 film Moonlight for the latest installment of the Meaning What Movie Club. The film is chockablock with scenes that gripped me for hours—if not days—after I finished watching. One, however, is during the film’s first chapter when Chiron, our young protagonist played by Alex Hibbert, is on the beach with Juan, played by Mahershala Ali. There, Juan tells Chiron:

“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.”

I chose this film in celebration of Black History Month, and, in many ways, this line encapsulates so many aspects of why continuing to focus on Black history is so important—especially in the arts.

While Juan may be focusing on the geographic representation of Black people spread across the world, I also believe that he is touching on the unmistakable influence that Black history has had on the greatness of humanity: the fingerprints of Black contributions can be found in every facet of our lives.

In following Chiron’s quest for self-actualization, Moonlight serves as a reminder that, despite how different the protagonist’s journey may be from the viewer’s, his struggle is more than just his own. Chiron’s story is just a sliver of a single person’s experience, but, within that, Jenkins simultaneously touches on the indomitable strength that has cannot be separated from Black culture and the aspects of life, like vulnerability and self-acceptance, that tie all of us together.

Thanks for listening,
Chris

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