Tyler Perry struck a chord at the 2019 BET Awards on Sunday (June 23). After accepting the Ultimate Icon Award, the producer, director, and writer delivered an inspirational message to other black creatives looking to change the mold and break into the film industry.
Taraji P. Henson, who has appeared in several Perry films, presented him with the award. “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,” Henson said.
In his powerful speech, Perry recalled growing up in an abusive household. To make his mother laugh, he would often imitate women she played cards with. He stated that those experiences allowed him to create his first 10 movies.
“That moment reminded me of my mother, bringing out of her pain with laughter, helping her cross,” he said. He added that he created those film in hopes of letting his mother 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.”
Later in his speech, Perry also spoke about building his Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta and giving many young actors like Taraji and Viola Davis their big break. “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 continued. “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 added: “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.”
Tyler Perry’s speech was met with a standing ovation. Watch his powerful moment in the video above.