‘Moonlight’ can help us envision a Liberty City that soars

Miami Herald Editorial Board

A scene from the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight.”
A scene from the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight.”

The bouquets continue to be thrown at Barry Jenkins’ feet — and deservedly so. We’re throwing one more.

Jenkins is the force, and director, behind the Oscar-winning film, “Moonlight,” which was shot in Miami’s Liberty City.

Tuesday, in a sweet tribute to the game-changing film, Miami-Dade commissioners resolved to name a five-block stretch of Northwest 22nd Avenue, running through the heart of Liberty City, Moonlight Way.

Thursday, Time magazine announced its picks of “Most Influential People.” U.S. Rep. John Lewis is there, Pope Francis is there, Steve Bannon is there. Jenkins is on the list, too — as we said before, deservedly so.

It’s all thanks to “Moonlight,” based on the book by Tarell McCraney — who, like Jenkins, is terrifically talented and from the neighborhood. They pushed past tired, limiting stereotypes of inner-city African-American life and grafted flesh and bone and heart onto one young gay boy’s quiet story of his search for himself. He compels viewers to care.

And that is the foundation of their shared influence, which should be rewarded because they didn’t go Hollywood on us, but generously paid tribute to the neighborhood and the people that helped make Jenkins Hollywood’s hot new director.

We hope his influence continues to create a powerful ripple effect, from Hollywood — where the cutting, and truthful, #oscarssowhite hashtag should finally give way to amplifying the cinematic voices to all sorts of marginalized Americans — to Liberty City, itself.

“Moonlight” put it in the spotlight. It’s past time to add the adjectives “inspirational,” “nurturing” and “source of talent” to “troubled” and “crime-ridden” when describing Liberty City.

Indeed, it is all those things. A historic neighborhood where struggling, loving parents continue to give their children wings to soar. And where too often drugs, challenged schools and fusillades clip some of those same wings.

Liberty City can soar, too, for its residents. Now, it’s just a matter of compelling those outside of the neighborhood to make the concerns of those within truly their own.

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins will be honored at noon on Saturday at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave. The event is free with an RSVP available at ahcacmiami.eventbrite.com