Tyler Perry delivered a powerful speech Sunday while accepting the Ultimate Icon Award at the 2019 BET Awards, talking about the importance of sharing opportunities.
Throughout the speech, he brought back this prevailing motif: “It’s all about trying to help somebody cross.” You can watch the speech below.
“When I started hiring people like Taraji [P. Henson], Viola Davis, Idris Elba, they couldn’t get jobs in this town, but God blessed me to be in a position to be able to hire them. I was trying to help somebody cross,” Perry said.
He said his mother has been his biggest inspiration, and that his first ten films were “subconsciously about her,” and the desire for “black women to know you’re worthy, you’re special, you’re powerful.”
He also explained the symbolism behind the location of his studio in Atlanta, Georgia.
“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 could do it, too. That 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,” he said.
He also said: “While everybody was fighting for a seat at the table, talking about Oscars So White, I said, ‘Y’all go ahead and do that, but 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 would prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies. Rather than being an icon, I want to be an inspiration.”
— #BETAwards (@BETAwards) June 24, 2019