“I want to thank my teachers, my professors,” he said in his speech, adding that they taught him that “it’s not about you, it’s about these characters. You’re in service to these stories and these characters. I’m so blessed to have had this opportunity.”
He is also the fifth black actor to win in that category.
Though his Oscar speech did not directly address his religion, Ali spoke emotionally about religious tolerance during his acceptance speech at the Screen Actors Guild awards last month. His uplifting comments came after the rollout of Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations.
“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 years ago,” he said fighting back tears. “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.”
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He also spoke about how Moonlight’s storyline was a reflection of the world today: “I think what I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is what happens when you persecute people,” he said. “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.”
While accepting his Oscar, Ali also thanked his gorgeous wife who just gave birth to their first child this weekend.