The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were pointedly political — thanks to President Donald Trump’s xenophobic travel ban, which took the center stage at a ceremony that is usually just a glitzy event where celebrities give accolades to their peers.
From Kerry Washington blasting those who criticize actors for taking a stand against Trump to Ashton Kutcher declaring he is “a citizen of the world,” the evening was an epitome of both activism and representation with in Hollywood.
However, it was “Moonlight” actor Mahershala Ali’s powerful words on persecution and acceptance that moved the audience to tears.
“I think what I have learned from working on ‘Moonlight,’ you see what happens when you persecute people, and they fold into themselves,” said the actor as he received his first SAG Award. “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 that opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was okay. And accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that.”
Ali then went on to talk about the ways to approach people who are different from us.
“When we kind of get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us different, there's two ways of seeing that,” he continued. “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 — to say that person is different from me and I don't like you, so let's battle.”
The “House of Cards” actor, who converted to Islam nearly two decades ago, also talked about his personal experience.
“My mother is an ordained minister,” he added. “I’m a Muslim. She didn't do back flips when I called her and told her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, we put things to the side and I was able to see her. She is able to see me. We love each other.”
The reaction on Twitter said it all:
#MahershalaAli should get another Award for that speech— Tanner Koch (@tanman1) January 30, 2017
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Mike Blake