Last night, Tyler Perry brought the BET Awards audience to its feet with an empowering speech as he accepted the Ultimate Icon Award.
The actor-producer was presented the award by Taraji P. Henson, and he started his speech by talking about his mother, how much he learned from his family, all of which added up to who he became as a filmmaker.
He said that the first 10 movies he made were about his mother, 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, per THR. “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.”
He noted that “rather than being an icon, I want to be an inspiration,” then he 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.”
Watch the speech below: