Let's get it together, one stop at a time.
I saw Moonlight earlier than a lot of people since I live in the DC area. I highly recommend you see it, unless one or both of your parents ever did crack.
I’ve heard a lot of opposition to this film due to some bullshit “Hollywood is trying to feminize Black men” and “the only movies they like show as a gay, slaves, or drug dealers.” That sort of hate belongs nowhere near this movie. It is beautifully written, expertly shot, and perfectly acted. It’s a gorgeously painful story from two Black men (Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney) who both know what it’s like to grow up in a home broken by the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s (which is still a thing, but now it’s time to pay attention to and have compassion for heroin addicts…that’s another post for another time). The excruciatingly accurate portrayals of their past may be too much for people who share this sad experience, especially without a warning.
Chiron, the lead character, has a mother who initially works in a hospital but soon spirals into a full blown crackhead with no energy or love for anything but her all-consuming need for a hit. I don’t want to give away the film, but know that there are innumerable blatant and subtle hints of her decline. She hides in her room with a strange man. The TV disappears. Her hair and her teeth lose the look of self-care. And her “love” for Chiron twists itself into resentment and bullying. When she shakes her son down for money that someone who actually cares for him gave him, I cried scalding, furious tears. I had no idea that the movie dealt with these issues, so those scenes were like slaps in the face. Both my parents stole from me with the justification that since I was living in their home, nothing was really mine. It’s kind of like a man who thinks it’s impossible to rape his wife. If I protested at all, he’d tell me, “I’m the Daddy. You don’t tell me, I tell you!” and she’d plead and beg and guilt-trip and false-promise her way to an “Okay, Mama.” They had a way of doling out scraps of love and claiming that those measly bits of affection were the best me and my older brother were going to get. We couldn’t call human services because then we’d be sent off to live with abusive foster parents. We couldn’t run away because we’d never survive the streets without them. We couldn’t live with relatives because they didn’t love us half us much as Mama and Daddy. They had more children, going to the trap even during the pregnancies and collecting more in welfare with both births, and the lies went on and on until my aunt and grandmother put their foot down and took me in when I was 11. I was so confused about my life and how I was supposed to view these women that Mama (who previously worked in a hospital) spoke of like demons. But I constantly vowed in middle school, high school and college that I would be more like them and nothing like my parents. So I packed away all the nights where I had no idea where my parents were and the images of them shutting the blinds in drug-induced paranoia into a little box. Daddy stopped being able to control me, Mama stopped doing drugs altogether, and I got a quiet little middle class life, so the box laid undisturbed for years.
Moonlight busted that box wide open and displayed its contents to the world.
I felt shame. I couldn’t sleep well for days. I got sick. My body was racked with choking, heaving sobs as I told my therapist that I couldn’t do it. I’d lived through that shit once. Why should I go through it again? That’s the main reason why I haven’t done much with the book me and my older brother Rickey are supposed to be writing. Every paragraph will be like opening that box and staring at some pathetic part of my soul.
But I will write it. I will be brave like Jenkins and McCraney, who made what is possibly the best movie of 2016. Because someone out there has been through what I’ve been through and need to know that they’re not alone. They need to stop being afraid of their box and accept it as part of who they are.
STOP being ashamed of your past and START being proud of your progress.
Follow me on Twitter (@stopsigngirl) to follow my journey!
Moonlight opens today for Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, and Seattle.