At the historic 93rd Academy Awards, actor, producer, filmmaker, and activist Tyler Perry was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for “his generosity toward those often overlooked and his steadfast commitment to social justice.”
As he accepted the award from Atlanta, Perry took the opportunity to speak about his mother who grew up in pre-civil rights era Mississippi, where she mourned the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.
“She taught me to refuse hate and blanket judgment,” Perry said.
Getting emotional at the state of the world today, he said, “In this time, with all of the internet and social media and algorithms that want us to think a certain way. The 24-hour news cycle. It’s my hope that we teach our kids, refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody.
“I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are Black or white,” he continued. “Or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer or because they’re Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate. And I want to take this humanitarian award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle.
“Because that’s where healing, where conversation, where change happens. It happens in the middle. Anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate and blanket judgment, this one is for you, too.”
In his rousing speech, which earned the actor a standing ovation, Perry also recalled an encounter he had experienced with a homeless woman outside of a building where he was producing a project. Perry explained that the woman had asked him for a pair of shoes, as opposed to money.
“I’m about to give her money. She says, ‘Sir, do you have any shoes?’ It stopped me cold,” Perry, who has himself experienced housing insecurity, said.
“I remember being homeless, and I had one pair of shoes, they were bent over at the heels. We go to the wardrobe, and there were all these boxes, fabrics, racks of clothes. We had to stand in the middle of the floor. As we were standing there, we found some shoes, she’s looking down. She finally looks up, she has tears in her eyes. She said, thank you, Jesus. My feet are off the ground.”
Revealing the woman had confessed that she thought he would hate her for asking for shoes, Perry said, “How could I hate you when I used to be you?”.