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‘Moonlight' Providing a Beacon of Hope for Liberty City

While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins and story writer Tarell McCraney delivered a shout-out to their roots.

"Two boys from Liberty City up here on the stage representing 305," McCraney said after Moonlight had won the award for best adapted screenplay.

This did not go unnoticed in Liberty City.

"The first thing that come out of your mouth, this for everybody in Liberty City, that's epic to me," said Luther Campbell, the rap music impresario and Liberty City native.

As just about everybody knows, "Moonlight" tells the story of kids who grew up in Liberty City. Jenkins filmed part of the movie where he lived as a child, at the Liberty Square housing project, which is unfortunately known as a crime-infested place.

"Shooting, violence, killing, seen it all," said Crystal Corner, who lives in the complex and is the president of the Liberty Square Community Center.

For people who live and work in the area, the Liberty City connection to a film which won numerous awards, including Best Picture, is a source of immense pride. It also sends a message.

"We have kids that have talent in the projects, too, the public housing," Corner said.

Barry Jenkins played running back at Northwestern High School. Ronnie Jones was his quarterback. Jones remembers Jenkins as the kid who always had a joke to tell, and a student who was all business academically.

"He's very smart, very smart, I mean everybody knew he was gonna make it, be something, 'cause football, he played football but he always had higher goals than just playing football," Jones said.

To understand the magnitude of "Moonlight," one has to consider the history of he neighborhood. the riots of the early 1980's drove businesses away, drug dealers and gang members took over, and despair became an enduring problem.

"So now the community is left totally abandoned," Campbell said.

Luther Campbell is somewhat of a Liberty City legend. He knows the streets and people here as well as anyone, and says Jenkins and McCraney made more than a movie. They've provided a beacon of hope.

"They get it, they understand the struggle and they understand through what they're doing they're helping others, they're helping other kids aspire to be something better," Campbell said.

What about the merits of the movie itself? None of the people we spoke to have actually seen "Moonlight," but they all say they're going to watch it now.

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