Tyler Perry gave a powerful speech at last night’s BET Awards.
The writer, producer, director was honored with BET’s Ultimate Icon Award at the event which held at the Microsoft Theaters in Los Angeles.
Taraji P. Henson, who has been in movies made by Tyler Perry, presented him with the award, saying: “In a time when my counterparts were making way more money than I was, Tyler Perry was the first to pay me my exact worth.”
In his speech, Mr Perry recalled growing up with a father who beat his mother. He spoke of starting a new school when he was 11 or 12. To get there, he had to walk past pimps, prostitutes and through a graveyard. One day, a man was standing at a major intersection asking passersby for help cross. No one would stop but Perry did and the two became good friends.
He said: “That moment reminded me of my mother, bringing out of her pain with laughter, helping her cross.”
Tyler said that the first 10 movies he made were all about his mother, subconsciously, “wanting her to know she’s worthy, to let black women know you are worthy, you are special, you are powerful, you are amazing. All of that that was about helping her cross.”
He then spoke about building his Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
He recalled: “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, which meant that there was 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.”
He continued: “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.”