Tyler Perry’s powerful BET Awards speech stresses the importance of perseverance and self-reliance. Photo: BET screenshot via YouTube
On Sunday, African-American filmmaker and movie-mogul Tyler Perry deliver a riveting speech after he was awarded an Ultimate Icon Award, at the BET Awards show. Perry’s speech was an authoritative testament to the power of perseverance—and Black self-reliance.
Because of its substance, the Black Star News feels it is important to publish Perry’s entire speech.
“Thank you. I ah want to say a special thanks to BET, my new family. I can’t wait to get started over there with our new shows. Thank you so much for this. To Scott, and everybody over there, thank you so much to Viacom. Taraji, who is here. Bob everybody, listen from my heart I want to say thank you. I couldn’t help but think about my mother, I remember being a kid about five-years-old she would take me to the projects with her when she played cards on Friday nights with a bunch of women, now these women didn’t have more than a twelfth-grade education. But they were smart Black women. They were powerful Black women. They had great stories to tell.
And I was a five-year-old kid sitting there on the floor playing with my matchbox cards listening to them talk about their men, their relationships, and their pains. And when one of them would get really sad, another one would come in an make a joke and they would all start laughing. I didn’t know I was in the master class for my life. I would get home, and my father would be beating my mother, and doing all kinds of things, and saying all kinds of stuff to her, and he would leave the room, and I would walk in and I’d imitate one of these women and she would start laughing. There was a power in that, that I really didn’t get until I got older.
I remember being about 11, 12-years-old on my way to my new school and I got to this intersection I had to walk past pimps, prostitutes, walk through literally walk through a graveyard, get to this intersection, six-lane intersection, and there was a man standing there saying ‘will someone help me cross?’ ‘Will someone help me cross?’ And there were all these people that kept passing by him and passing by him. And I said, ‘I’ll help you cross.’ So, he told me he was going to my school and he was going to sell candy there, that’s how he made his living. So, I helped him cross the street to get there. We became good friends. His name is Mr. Butler.
That moment reminded me of my mother bringing her out of pain into laughter, to help her cross. My first 10 movies were all about her, subconsciously, wanting her to know that she was worthy, wanting Black women to know you’re worthy, you’re special, you’re powerful, you’re amazing. All of that, was about helping her cross. When I started hiring people like Taraji, and Viola Davis, and 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.
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 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. It’s all about trying to help somebody cross. While everybody was fighting for a seat at the table talking about #OscarsSoWhite, #OscarsSoWhite, 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 will prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies.
Rather than being an icon, I want to be an inspiration. So, thank you BET, my new family. Thank you everybody. I want you to hear this. Every dreamer in this room: there are people whose lives are tied into your dream. Own your stuff, own your business, own your way.
God bless you. Thank you BET. Thank you, Scott. I love you guys. Thank you.”