Perry’s new partnership with Viacom and BET is already making waves across the industry, and Sunday night, Perry was offered an incredibly warm welcome to the BET family as he took to the stage to accept BET’s Ultimate Icon Award, delivering a speech that captivated audiences everywhere.
Friend and collaborator Taraji P. Henson presented Perry with his award, citing the many attributes that make him the icon that he is today.
Perry began his speech by bringing us back to when he was five years old and would take in the stories of his mother’s friends as they played cards—early moments that went on to define his career. Listening to the strong and powerful African-American women seated around that table turned out to be the “masterclass for my life” as he learned how to bring people out of pain through laughter and narrative representation.
From there, Perry went on to dive deeper into the impetus behind creating Tyler Perry Studios, stating that he chose to create a seat at the table within the #OscarSoWhite landscape; Perry also touched on the layered significance of the land that TPS is built upon.
“When I built my studio, I built in a neighborhood that is one of the poorest black neighborhoods in Atlanta so that young kids can see that a black man did that and they can do it, too,” Perry said. “The studio was once a Confederate Army base, 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,” he said.
From career beginnings to his driving force that goes deeper than creative vision, Perry’s speech inspired and enlivened the crowd, ending it all with a powerful message that brought the room to their feet in a collective standing ovation. “Every dreamer in this room: there are people whose lives are tied into your dream. Own your stuff, own your business, own your way.”
Be sure to watch the full speech, above!