Tyler Perry says instead of fighting for a seat at the table, build your own
There's a lot to be said for paving your own path, and Tyler Perry said it all when he accepted the Ultimate Icon Award at the BET Awards. Perry received his award for making movies that were, Perry feels, subconsciously about "wanting her [his mother] to know that she was worthy—wanting black women to know you're worthy, you're special, you're powerful, you're amazing." Perry's inspirational acceptance speech has enough motivation to get you going for years. He spoke to the power of helping others while simultaneously carving out your own destiny.
Perry revealed that when he built his studio in Atlanta, he placed it in one of the city's poorer neighborhoods as a deliberate move to show black children that they, too, can succeed. Not only that, "The studio was once a Confederate Army base," he said. "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."
Perry said that movements like #OscarsSoWhite help POC get hired, but he prefers to take a different, more proactive route. "While everybody was fighting for a seat at the table talking about #OscarsSoWhite, #OscarsSoWhite, I said, 'Y'all go ahead and do that,'" he said. "But while you're fighting for a seat at the table, I'll be down in Atlanta building my own."
But by carving his own table, Perry has made a seat for other black talent. "When I started hiring Taraji, 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," said Perry during his speech. Taraji P. Henson, who presented Perry with the award, recalled Perry paying her a fair wage for her work. "In a time where my counterparts were making way more than I was ... Tyler Perry was the first to pay me my worth," said Henson. "A black man did that and that means the world to me."
Perry concluded with words of wisdom for every artist who has dared to dream. "Every dreamer in this room: there are people whose lives are tied into your dream. Own your stuff, own your business, own your way," Perry said. This is seriously moving.
The crowd gave Perry a standing ovation, and we totally get it. We're giving Perry a standing ovation right now, and we're not even at the auditorium. You can always extend a helping hand to somebody else while building your own future.
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