Studio owner Tyler Perry delivered a groundbreaking powerful speech during his acceptance speech for the Ultimate Icon Award at the 2019 BET Awards, in Los Angeles; talking about the importance of sharing opportunities and ownership.
Taraji P. Henson, who has featured in Tyler Perry films including The Family That Preys (2008), presented him with the award at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday.
“In a time when my colleagues were earning way more money than I was, Tyler Perry was the first to pay me my exact worth,” Taraji said.
Tyler, the founder of the massive Tyler Perry film and TV studios in Atlanta, showered praise on the late rapper Nipsey Hussle who advocated for Black ownership.
Throughout his speech, he echoed this prevailing motif: “It’s all about trying to help somebody cross.”
“When I started employing people like Idris Elba, Viola Davis, Taraji [P. Henson], they couldn’t get hired in this town, but God blessed me to be in a position to be able to employ them. I was simply trying to help somebody cross,” Perry said.
He further said his mother has been his biggest source of inspiration, and that his first ten films were “subconsciously about her,” and the wish for “black women to know you’re worthy, you’re special, you’re powerful.”
He also further stressed the symbolism behind the location of his studio in Atlanta, Georgia.
“When I built my studio, I built it in an environment that is regarded as one of the poorest black neighborhoods in Atlanta, so that young black kids could see that a black man did that and they could replicate it too. That studio was once a Confederate Army base (and I want you to hear this) which literally means 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.
“While everyone was busy fighting for a spot at the table, talking about Oscars So White, I said, ‘Y’all go ahead and do that, but while you’re busy fighting for a seat at the table, I’ll be down in Atlanta building my own table.’ Because what I believe 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 ordinary icon, I want to be a source of inspiration,” he concluded.