Tyler Perry received the “Ultimate Icon Award” at the BET Awards last weekend and delivered a moving acceptance speech that ended with the filmmaker giving glory to God.
Introduced by actress Taraji P. Henson, also a professing Christian, Perry honored his mother and all black women, saying that his first 10 movies were meant to tell them, “you’re worthy, you’re special, you’re powerful.”
The visionary shared a story about helping a man cross the street as a child that remarkably impacted the rest of his life. Perry began hiring people such as Henson, Viola Davis, and Idris Alba as a way to help them cross over in their careers.
“They couldn't get jobs in this town but God blessed me to be in a position to be able to hire them,” he testified. “I was trying to help somebody cross.”
Perry then drew connections between power and creative ownership. Although his childhood was very difficult and he witnessed domestic violence and lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood, the famous playwriter said his experience taught him the value of helping others in his community.
“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,” he explained.
He added, “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.”
In Perry's speech, which was similar to a sermonette, he continued to repeat the importance of helping others cross, and after making several points to support his lesson, he proceeded to acknowledge God.
“While everybody else is fighting for a seat at the table, talking about ‘Oscars [are] so white, Oscars so white.’ 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,’” Perry declared. “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.”
Watch the full speech below: