When film director Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney took the stage to accept the best adapted screenplay Oscar for their movie, Moonlight, they let the world know where they came from.
“Thank God for my mother, who proved to me through her struggles, and the struggles that Naomie Harris portrayed for all of you, that we can really be here and be somebody,” McCraney said. “Two boys from Liberty City up here on this stage here representing the 305.”
At that moment, I was so fucking proud to also be a Liberty City native. And when Moonlight won the Academy Award for best picture, I shed tears. We are not Bal Harbour. We are not Aventura. We are not Miami Beach. We are none of those glitzy tourist traps you see on travel brochures and national TV broadcasts. But Liberty City is a proud community of hard-working, talented people just like Jenkins and McCraney.
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Just a few weeks ago, Devonta Freeman, a kid from the Pork 'n' Bean projects, starred for the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. Beginning with his Pop Warner days, he fought criticism that he wasn’t fast enough, big enough, or strong enough to make it to the pros. Another native, Keon Hardemon, could have been just another public defender. Instead, he’s one of the youngest politicians to serve as chairman of the Miami City Commission. Briana Rollins went from starring on the Miami Northwestern High track team to winning an Olympic gold medal last year. And neighborhood football was featured last week nationally on Vice World of Sports.
Being from Liberty City taught me to fight for what I believe in, even if it means taking the battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Seeing Jenkins and McCraney conquer the Academy Awards, an institution that has faced valid criticism for not recognizing black films, proves that people from Liberty City can do anything they set their sights on.
It made me so happy to be from the place in Miami where the voices of the suffering often go unheard. Last night on national television, kids from Liberty City saw for themselves that their dreams can come true.