Miami-Dade County

The diner was buzzing, the arts center celebrated. ‘Moonlight’ makes a hometown proud.

Old friend of Tarell Alvin McCraney reacts to Oscar night

Flossie Williams says she's known "Moonlight" writer Tarell Alvin McCraney ("My baby!") since he and her daughter started at New World School of the Arts together. She's also a regular at Jimmy's Eastside Diner, a favorite place of the movie's dir
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Flossie Williams says she's known "Moonlight" writer Tarell Alvin McCraney ("My baby!") since he and her daughter started at New World School of the Arts together. She's also a regular at Jimmy's Eastside Diner, a favorite place of the movie's dir

Flossie Williams, a regular at Jimmy’s Eastside Diner, wanted to take Monday off to bathe in the “Moonlight” glow. She wanted nothing more than to watch interviews of writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, who she considers family.

Marshall Davis Sr., director of the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, described Sunday night’s watch-party reaction as joyful noise.

READ MORE: Made-in-Miami masterpiece wins Best Picture

Both Jimmy’s and the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center could walk with a chest-out Miami swagger on Monday —not just as “Moonlight” fans, but as some of the roots out of which grew this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (McCraney and director Barry Jenkins) and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali).

Liberty City-raised Jenkins was a twice-a-week regular at Jimmy’s, 7201 Biscayne Blvd., where he shot the movie’s third portion over two nights (Jimmy’s closes at 4 p.m.). The Cultural Arts Center, Northwest 62nd Street and 22nd Avenue, pulled McCraney into an accepting artistic embrace important to a young black man.

McCraney attended the New World School of the Arts, where he met Williams’ daughter during their freshmen year.

“I cried this morning,” Williams said Monday, the day after the stunning win. “I wanted to stay home from work and watch all the interviews. He’s my baby.”

Flossie Williams says she's known "Moonlight" writer Tarell Alvin McCraney ("My baby!") since he and her daughter started at New World School of the Arts together. She's also a regular at Jimmy's Eastside Diner, a favorite place of the movie's dir

“Moonlight” won after an envelope mix-up that at first called the “La La Land” gang to the stage.

At that point, Jimmy’s cashier J.C. Cadigan did what some others at Jimmy’s said they did: “I just turned off the TV.”

Come daylight Monday morning, after seeing the news reports, he said: “What? Really? I read it, like ... It’s Miss Universe, Part II.” That would be the Miss Universe in which host Steve Harvey read the wrong winner.

Davis, head of the African Heritage Cultural Center, described a crowd that sounded more like a Super Bowl watch party than an Oscars watch party.

“Some people, every time they heard ‘La La Land,’ they booed. Every time, they heard ‘Moonlight,’ they cheered,” Davis said.

“So, some people, when they heard ‘La La Land’ as the Academy Award winner for Best Picture, you saw a lot of people get up, ‘boo,’ and start walking away.”

The crowd watching the Oscars at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center reacted with disappointment, then confusion, then elation as "Moonlight" was named Best Picture Winner after a huge Academy Awards mix-up.

When the room heard the true result, he said, “the place was ecstatic. You’d think it was a Pentecostal church. People were just overjoyed, having a wonderful time celebrating the success of a movie and the impact that it has for Miami.”

It was a good week at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center. With the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performing at the Arsht Center Thursday through Sunday, artistic director Robert Battle did a Tuesday signing of an autobiographical kids book at the center, where he is an alumnus.

Battle referred to “Moonlight” from both the show stage and the after-party stage Thursday, declaring “I had nothing to do with it, but I’m claiming it” out of 305 pride.

Then, came Sunday and a very good night.

Davis answered one Monday phone call with a summation felt by many: “We won!”

"Moonlight" writer Tarell Alvin McCraney's artistic roots go back to the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Liberty City. Center director Marshall Davis, Sr. talks about McCraney and the center, which has produced some notable talent over th

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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