Tyler Perry gave an impassioned speech Sunday night at the 2021 Oscars after taking home an award for his humanitarian work.
Perry received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which goes to individuals in the motion picture industry in recognition of their humanitarian efforts.
In the past year, Variety reported, he developed Camp Quarantine, which got production up and running by July at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. Earlier this month, Perry partnered with a local hospital and covered the costs of turning his studios into a vaccination site.
“This man exemplifies the best you can ask from any human, and that is to care about your fellow human beings,” Whoopi Goldberg said in a prerecorded video segment that aired Sunday.
In his speech, Perry told an inspiring story about a woman who had approached him for help some 17 years ago outside a building he was renting for production. He explained that he believed she was about to ask him for money.
“I reach into my pocket and I’m about to give her the money and she says, ‘Excuse me, sir, do you have any shoes?’” he recalled. “It stopped me cold because I remember being homeless and having one pair of shoes and they were bent over at the heels.”
Perry has spoken often about being a homeless playwright living out of his car and self-funding low-budget projects in his early days.
He explained that he took her into the wardrobe department and helped outfit her with a pair of shoes.
“We ended up having to stand in the middle of the floor,” he said, adding, “She finally looks up, she’s got tears in her eyes.
“She said, ‘Thank you, Jesus, my feet are off the ground.’”
Perry added that he remembered the woman telling him she thought he would hate her for asking.
“I’m like, how could I hate you when I used to be you?” he asked.
Perry explained his late mother had grown up in the Jim Crow South and experienced a bomb threat working at a Jewish community center — and despite it all, taught him to “refuse hate.”
"She taught me to refuse blanket judgment,” Perry said, adding, “I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican or because they are Black or white or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian.”
He dedicated his award to anyone willing to “stand in the middle" with him.
“Because that’s where healing happens, that’s where conversation happens, that’s where change happens, it happens in the middle,” he said. “So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you too.”