Hollywood’s most talented actors gathered Sunday evening to honor each other’s work at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards. On the heels of Donald Trump’s latest executive order, which barred immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., many performers took a moment to comment on the president’s divisive policy, which has caused thousands to protest around the country.
While Stranger Things star David Harbour declared that conscientious Americans will “punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the weak, the disenfranchised and the marginalized,” Moonlight star Mahershala Ali took a different approach.
After winning the award for best actor in a supporting role, Ali took to the stage and gave one of the most moving speeches of the evening.
“I think what I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is what happens when you persecute people,” he told the audience. “They fold in on themselves, and what I was so grateful in having the opportunity to play Juan, was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding in to himself as a result of the persecution of his community and taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered.”
The 42-year-old actor, who is now the front-runner to win the Academy Award for his performance, was moved to tears when he spoke about being a Muslim and still finding common ground with his mother, a Christian minister.
“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 yrs ago,” Ali explained. “But I tell you know, you put things to the side and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. And that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.”
Before he grabbed his trophy and exited the stage, Ali left the audience with a simple, yet powerful wish that once again echoed his faith: “Peace and blessings be upon you.”