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Waiting For When Two Black Boys Kissing Is Not Even Noticed

Waiting for Two Black Men Kissing's Not Even Noticed

A beautiful commentary on the impact and simple beauty of Moonlight winning best kiss at the MTV Movie awards by this warrior HIV activist.

One day, I declare it! A kiss between two men, hetero, cisgender or queer will not be shocking. Ok well in this case, a kiss placed on the lips between two presumably masculine black men will be the new affixed norm. That kisses will be part of the love repertoire of the world in ways we can't imagine or have forgotten today. Moonlight is pedagogical because it teaches with nuance, sincerity and without spectacle that black "love is love is love" as Lin-Manuel Miranda said at the Tony Awards. Looking in Chiron’s eyes while he receives a call from Kevin tells us a story of love, unconventional in today’s heteronormative world but real and not imagined in my experience. It showed me that our rituals are real, our lived experiences show that everyday. Early on in the film Little runs into an abandoned house after being chased and bullied by a group of boys. Juan enters the house and tries to convince Little to join him. You see in the series of scenes to follow a person imperfect and yet capable of perfect moments. From him sharing how his difference has made him into the complexity of his adulthood, being dark-skinned and having roots in Cuba. Later he teaches him how to swim in such a graceful way that made me feel the intimacy between these two black men yearning for connection in a world that deifies isolation.

Tarell Alvin McCraney made magic when he penned the unpublished play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. I learned of him when I went to see a production of "Marcus or the Secret of Sweet" at a local theater. I was mind-blown at the truth and sorrow of queerness and blackness intermingled in a Katrina-like moment in the south. Within my new obsession with McCraney’s works I learned of his affinity with the trine, this is noticed in how the film narrative is broken up in three, Little, Chiron, Black. I went on to purchase the Brother Sister plays and delved into the mind of this creative and the generational love and pain of the characters and the Yoruba spirituality within the words of this monumental playwright. I’ve never experienced a poetic realness in the way that McCraney imagines it in the context of his plays. He does something with the simplicity of truth and the honesty of love. I watched Moonlight in its entirety twice in two different theaters in two separate states. I first watched it in Chicago and then in Philadelphia. The second time I saw it, it was election night. Leaving the Ritz in Philadelphia’s Olde City, I learned that Donald Trump was leading in the results from the general election. Both times something that stood out to me were the white audience reaction to black on black love, when Juan entered the abandoned house, white people gasped as if he should be feared or that his intention was to harm Little. I was told after the film from someone white that they thought Juan was going to harm him, clearly the subtext of that was the idea that the harm would be sexual. This is important in thinking about how whiteness responds to love shared between black people as it was shown on the recent MTV Movie and TV Awards. In the past for Best Kiss we have seen hetero white men win this award and it was mostly seen as cutesy. There were moments where black people shrieked or were perplexed and white audience members laughed. The rejoice of retribution felt by them when Black slammed a chair on the back of his bully wasn’t seen by them as connected to a larger experience, they identified with this as just payback. For me that was among the many moments my heart broke. It was great to see Black get a lick in on this kid of course, but as a black man It was nuanced for me. It pained me to see this, I was reminded of the time I’d been beaten because of identities I held, by a group of black young men, it reminded me of the pain in both my sister Badriyah and my mother’s eyes. It reminded me of how toxic white supremacy is. It tells us our only commodity is perfomative masculinity. So, while they applauded I cried and when they laughed I was left questioning what was so funny?

The cinematography and direction of Moonlight was so rhythmic and percussive in its movement and I appreciated the color palate throughout the film. The connection to water for me spoke to ancestral trauma and because I that kind-of-gay I also couldn’t avoid thinking about Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” while watching Chiron and Kevin lip-lock right before the most sensual handjob was given to Chiron. The intimacy for me was at times hesitant, playful and cursory. Moonlight is a curriculum in love rituals, from the kiss by the water to how Black prepared to see his love by brushing his hair and shifting his clothing before entering the diner. The beautiful shot of his back as he is approaching the door, you felt the intentionality of his walk, he was determined to be Kevin in this moment. Kevin cooked his love with such passion, because food is love. When he played the song is when I lost it, I cried and pretended like I was rubbing my eyes. Even in that moment I couldn’t be vulnerable while watching a film that spoke directly to me.

Moonlight is such a gift and I’m so appreciative to both Barry Jenkins and McCraney and the actors for their ability to carry the characters forward in powerful ways. I’m still waiting with bated breath to have two black femme gay men kiss and it be seen as a revolutionary act rather than have hot water thrown on them. I’m still waiting for masculine black Muslim men to not have to be incarcerated for defending themselves and be convicted of a hate crime because they don’t fall within the visibly gay binary. I’m still waiting for two black men to kiss and it not cause an uproar. 

ABDUL-ALIY A. MUHAMMAD is a Philadelphia-born born liberationist organizer with the Black and Brown Workers Collective. They contribute to and otherwise provide spaces with anti-oppression trainings with the BlaQollective. Recently they have launched a podcast, For Colored Boyz, which can be found on SoundCloud. Abdul-Aliy previously worked at Mazzoni Center as  an HIV prevention counselor and as the coordinator of the Real Impact Project.

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Abdul-Aliy A. Muhammad