Tyler Perry brought the BET Awards audience to its feet on Sunday night with an empowering speech as he accepted the Ultimate Icon Award.
Taraji P. Henson presented the award to the multi-hyphenate, who started his speech by talking about his mother and how he would go with her when she played card games with her friends.
But when she was at home, his dad often beat his mother, and to cheer her up, Perry started imitating her friends and she’d start laughing.
“There was a power in that, that I didn’t really get, until I got older,” he said.
He spoke about how, when he was 11 or 12, he started at a new school, and his route there took him past “pimps, prostitutes” and through a graveyard.
At a “six-lane intersection [nearby], there was a man standing there saying, ‘Will someone help me cross? Will someone help me cross?’ And there were all these people that kept passing by and passing by. And I said, ‘I’ll help you cross.’”
The young Perry and the man became good friends: “It reminded me of my mother, bringing out of her pain with laughter, helping her cross.”
He said that the first 10 movies he made were about her, subconsciously, “wanting her to know she’s worthy, to let black women know they are worthy, special, powerful, amazing. All that was about helping her cross!“
He went on to talk about his start in Hollywood and why he chose a specific location in Atlanta to build his studio.
“When I started hiring people like Taraji, and Viola Davis, and Idris Elba ... they couldn’t get jobs in this town,” Perry said. “God blessed me to be in a position to be able to hire them. I was trying to help somebody cross. When I built my studio, I built it in a neighborhood that is one of the poorest black neighborhoods in Atlanta so that young black kids could see that a black man did that, and they can do it too. I was trying to help somebody cross. The studio was once a Confederate Army base — and I want you to hear this — which meant that there were Confederate soldiers on that base, plotting and planning on how to keep 3.9 million Negroes enslaved. Now that land is owned by one Negro.” This comment was met with rousing applause and a standing ovation.
He went on: “It’s all about trying to help somebody cross. While everybody else is fighting for a seat at the table, talking about ‘#OscarsSoWhite, #OscarsSoWhite,’ I said, ‘Y’all go ahead and do that. While you’re fighting for a seat at the table, I’ll be down in Atlanta building my own.’ Because what I know for sure is that if I could just build this table, God will prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies.”
Noting that “rather than being an icon, I want to be an inspiration,” Tyler then offered some words of advice to the audience: “I want you to hear this. Every dreamer in this room, there are people whose lives are tied to your dream. Own your stuff, own your business, own your way.”
– Courtesy: The Hollywood Reporter