Tyler Perry has his fair share of both supporters and detractors, but that list of haters might have to rethink their positions after last night’s BET Awards. During his acceptance speech of the BET Ultimate Icon Award, the director and screenwriter made a powerful call to tell Black people to pay it forward to their people first and foremost.
In his powerful speech at the Microsoft Theaters in Los Angeles, Perry recalled growing up with a father who beat his mother. To make her laugh, five-year-old Tyler started imitating the women she played cards with every Friday. Then Perry spoke of starting a new school when he was 11 or 12. To get there, he had to walk past pimps, prostitutes and through a graveyard. One day, a man was standing at a major intersection asking passersby for help cross. No one would stop but Perry did and the two became good friends.
“That moment reminded me of my mother, bringing out of her pain with laughter, helping her cross.” In fact, Perry said that the first 10 movies he made were all about his mother, subconsciously, “wanting her to 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.”
He extended the metaphor to casting actors like Henson, Viola Davis and Idris Elba when “they couldn’t get jobs in this town.” “God blessed me to be in a position to be able to hire them. I was trying to help somebody cross.”
Watch Tyler Perry’s speech below.