"What I have learned from working on Moonlight, you see what happens when you persecute people."
Mahershala Ali delivered what will likely be the most powerful speech of Sunday night after winning best supporting actor at the Sag Awards for his role in Moonlight. The 42-year-old actor, who played the role of Juan in the beautiful coming-of-age story, used his acceptance speech to address persecution and acceptance, relating the themes to his character's relationship with the central character Chiron.
Ali later brought up the fact that his mother is an ordained minister, and that 17 years ago, he decided to convert to Islam. While he jokes that his mother didn't "do backflips" when she found out he was changing his faith, he says the two are able to love each other regardless; their differences being "minutia." It's easy to read his speech as commentary on Donald Trump's recent immigration ban, which affects 7 majority-Muslim countries, and has inspired protests across the U.S.
Watch his acceptance speech and read the full transcript below.
"What I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves. 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, and taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered. That he was okay. And accept him. I hope we do a better job of that.
When we get caught in the minutia, 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 say that, 'That person’s different from me. I don’t like you, so let’s battle.'
My mother’s an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, you put things to the side, and I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me. We’re able to love each other. The love has grown, and that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important."