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“Moonlight” to be screened at Grinnell, followed by panel discussion

By Vera Kahn

Next Friday, Feb. 23, the Cultural Film Committee is sponsoring a screening of “Moonlight” at 6 p.m. at the Harris Cinema. The film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Erin Whalen ’12, TJ Calhoun ’20, Simmone Carlton ’18, Sean Wright ’20 and Professor Mirzam Perez, Spanish, moderated by Professor Sharon Quinsaat, sociology. The event, which is titled “Racecraft, Representations and Afro-Latinos,” will be preceded by a vegetarian Cuban buffet beginning at 5:30 p.m. “Moonlight” follows protagonist Chiron through three stages in his life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Throughout the movie he grapples with sexual identity, drugs and the trials of growing up in relative solitude.

The event was spearheaded by Professor Katya Gibel Mevorach, anthropology, who is part of the Cultural Film Committee. She selected “Moonlight” because of its relevance to the Grinnell community.

“[‘Moonlight’] answered and addressed a lot of questions and topics that are being conducted on campus,” she said, including “questions of masculinity, questions of sexuality, support systems, how does somebody support a parent that’s not a parent — that’s a class issue. … It puts Black bodies on a screen without fetishizing them.” 

One aim of the panel is to combat the erasure of Afro-Latinx identities. The film addresses the erasure experienced by Black Cubans in Miami. Juan, Chiron’s mentor and one of the main characters of the film, is Black and Cuban.

“In America, there’s almost no attention paid to [Afro-Latinxs],” Gibel Mevorach said. 

Gibel Mevorach reached out to alumnus Erin Whalen ’12 to speak on the panel, in part because he is from Miami. Whalen is an educator currently based in Los Angeles, where he recently won a grant to start a school for homeless and foster youth.

Another aim of the event is to inspire conversation across different lines of identity. As Wright puts it, the event should “get people talking about race, … social stratification and disenfranchisement.”

Gibel Mevorach hopes that people will not only come away from the event talking about race, but that the “our conversations will bridge gaps between those groups and break down those separated, bounded, public group identities.” To this end, the speakers on the panel were intentionally selected in order to represent various racialized groups, genders and nationalities. However, this event is in no way exclusive to one particular group.

“[It’s important for] people that aren’t Black to be a part of this conversation and get something from what is being said at this event,” Wright said. “As much as it’s for the people of color on campus, it’s for the allies.”

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