Tyler Perry urged the global Oscars audience to “refuse hate” and work harder to uplift those on the margins as he accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on Sunday night at the 93rd annual Academy Awards.
Perry, the mogul who built a thriving studio in Atlanta from humble beginnings that include periods of living out of his car, spoke of the lessons he learned from his mother who grew up under harsh conditions in Mississippi in an earlier generation of civil rights strife such as the 1955 murder of Emmett Till and bombings in Alabama during the integration struggle of the 1960s.
“She taught me to refuse hate and blanket judgment,” Perry said of his mother. He contrasted those lessons to the contemporary hyper-active media and social media cauldrons.
“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,” Perry said, with emotion in his voice.
“I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are black or white. Or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer or because they’re Asian. I would hope we would refuse hit 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,” he said.
Perry’s ascent in film and TV has been remarkable, making him one of the most successful Black entrepreneurs of all time. He was recognized last October as Variety‘s Showman of the Year.
During his Oscars address, which he delivered from Atlanta, Perry also relayed a story about a moment of grace he experienced 17 years ago. As his professional star began to rise, he encountered a homeless woman outside a building where he was producing a project. He was taken aback when she asked him for a pair of shoes rather than take money.
“I’m about to give her money. She says, ‘Sir, do you have any shoes?’ It stopped me cold. I remember being homeless, and I had one pair of shoes, they were bent over at the heels,” Perry said. “We go to 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.”