This week Common released an album aptly titled: Black America Again. It’s been playing down the halls of Harvard. And I am moved by how far and wide art takes us, lifts us. In a week where we are confronted with a close election between a woman and an out bigot, black art is poised to heal us like a balm in preparation for an inevitable revolution long coming. At this point, whoever wins, we are more prepped than ever to commit to Black America, Again. As I think about the ways Black art has especially lifted me as of late, I pivot to the film Moonlight.
At it’s essence, Moonlight is a black love story, and belongs in the canon of epic black love stories. It is perhaps the most important story I’ve seen told this year. I learned so much about how little I know about black masculinity– and an important lesson about how so many of us navigate the world. We traverse it in search of a sign that we are not alone. And for some of us at varying intersections of identity, in this case, black gay boys– that discovery is the difference between life and death, between engaging with the world and just existing in it.
I was struck by the ways in which Kevin created a likeness for Chiron that even his fiercest allies could not. Which is a lesson to me that allyship has to be more than being a listening ear and an accepting village– it’s an imperative to commit to creating a world that is a little safer for Little, Chiron, and Black… to love and be loved– to find likeness– to defeat pervasive loneliness.
Moonlight was romantic– and I felt privileged to witness Black male romantic intimacy between Kevin and Chiron (and later Black) and familial intimacy between Little and Juan. I am confronting ways we put limitations on the ways Black men can love each other. I want to see more, to learn more, about that intimate portraiture that frees Black men and boys from the deep and profound damage of patriarchy.
In this film I saw glimpses of a deeply rich and Black Miami– the home I am imagining when people hear where I am from and ask me about south beach. In hindsight, I see Miami as particularly uniquely positioned to challenge traditional notions of masculinity. Miami is where men jook, where boys ‘pop,’ and where florals are for everybody. However, Miami is not immune to the regular shortcomings we know patriarchy creates. This film was wrought with memories of travels from Northside station to richer whiter spaces where we first imagined a world absent security, surveillance, and shame– where Chiron experienced his first taste of what freedom might feel like.
And what of love? Moonlight left me knowing that theirs is not the only love story– and yearning for more stories of the sameness of different ways we love and cause pain… and also confronting the very real limits of even my sincerest empathy. For too many of us, the innateness of falling in love comes with great risk. Often we are forced to accept loneliness in exchange for security– because how do black boys love each other freely and fiercely in a world so hostile toward their humanity? How does that constant threat inform the way we learn of and accept ourselves? How do we hold ourselves accountable for the things we say that linger in the nightmares of people we purport to love? How do we make amends once we know better… and understand the ways in which the sins of our past have caused deep and profound damage for people we still love? How do we forgive, when our existence has evolved around our own deepest hurts?
Great films ask as many questions as they answer. I implore you all to go out and seek them in Moonlight. Thank you for this art.