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Watch Mahershala Ali’s Powerful ‘Moonlight’ SAG Awards Acceptance Speech

Mahershala Ali

With bigotry as a prominent theme with the recent presidential election and this weekend’s immigration ban against Muslim countries, Mahershala Ali gave an emotional, timely speech at tonight’s SAG Awards.

Ali won the SAG Award for Male Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance as Juan in Moonlight. In the film, Juan portrays a drug dealer who takes in and mentors a young boy, Chiron, who has been attacked and taunted for being gay. The film has been a favorite in awards season, including eight Oscar nominations.

In his speech, Ali made a connection between his role and the intolerance for minorities, pleading that everyone takes on a similar spirit of love and acceptance for others.

“What I learned from Moonlight is, we see what happens when we persecute people: they fold into themselves,” Ali said. “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 from his community. Taking that opportunity to tell him that he mattered, and that he was OK, and accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that.

“We get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us all different. I think there’s two ways of seeing that. There’s an opportunity to see the textures of that person, the things that make them unique; or go to war about it, and say, ‘that person’s different from me. I don’t like you. So let’s battle.'”

He then gave a brief, personal story about how he and his mother had to come to terms over his own religious beliefs.

“My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago,” he said. “But I tell you now: we put things to the side, and I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me, we love each other, the love has grown, and that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.”

Watch the full speech below.

William Ketchum III

is a journalist who covers music, pop culture, film/TV, race, culture and social justice. He is an editor at Okayplayer, and his work has appeared in Complex, Billboard, Guardian, NPR, MTV, Ebony, HipHopDX, The Flint Journal-MLive, and other publications.

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