"What I've learned from working on Moonlight is we see what happens when we persecute people: They fold into themselves," Ali shared, as he got increasingly choked up. "What I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan [in Moonlight] was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community, and taking that opportunity to uplift him, and tell him that he mattered and that he was OK, and accept him."
"I hope that we do a better job of that," he added, as the audience took to their feet to applaud.
"When we get caught up in the minutiae of the details that make us all different, I think there's two ways of seeing that," Ali continued. "There's the opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique. And then there's the opportunity to go to war with them, and to say, 'That persons different from me,' and 'I don't like you, so let's battle.'"
The Hidden Figures actor made the plea personal with a story from his own life about how he reconnected with his mother after a rift related to their religious beliefs.
"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," Ali recounted. "But I tell you know, we put things to the side, and I'm able to see her, she's able to see me. We love each other, the love has grown, and that stuff is minutiae. It's not that important."