Tyler Perry Accepts 2019 BET Ultimate Icon Award

On June 23, 2019, the 19th Annual BET Awards were hosted at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California. Wearing a studded black dress with a sexy thigh-baring slit, Golden Globe winner and Academy and Emmy award nominee, Taraji P. Henson, announced Tyler Perry as the recipient of the 2019 BET Ultimate Icon Award. During her presentation, she proudly proclaimed, “At a time when my counterparts were making way more money than I was – I was only making a fraction of what most of them were making – Tyler Perry was the first to pay me my worth, giving me my first real quote in Hollywood. A Black man did that!”


As Perry took the stage and accepted his 2019 BET Ultimate Icon Award, he recalled a childhood when he would follow his mother to the projects where she played cards with a group of friends. He was only five years old at the time, but he’d listen closely to their adult conversation while playing on the floor. The banter would quickly turn towards topics like the men in their lives and current struggles. He noticed that when one woman would get upset, another woman would inevitably make a joke, and everyone would laugh. Later that same evening, Tyler would witness his mother being physically abused by his father at home. He would find her afterwards and imitate those women in the card game, making her laugh.


He also remembered a time being about eleven years old, on his way to school. There was a man standing at a busy six-lane intersection, repeatedly pleading, “Will someone help me cross?” Tyler immediately responded that he would. He correlated this moment back to when he would help his mother deal with her pain.


“My first ten movies were all about her – subconsciously – wanting her to know. Wanting Black women to know: you’re worthy, you’re special, you’re powerful, you’re amazing. All of that was about helping her cross,” he revealed.


In speaking about his influence in getting Black men and women jobs in Hollywood, he stated, “God blessed me to be in a position to hire them. I was trying to help somebody cross.”


When he began building Tyler Perry Studios in 2006, with over 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) of sets and office space, Perry explained that he did so, strategically, in one of the poorest Black neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia. Tyler Perry wanted young Black children in that area to see that a young Black man did it, and that they could follow in his footsteps.


Tyler went on to say that his new studio, the former Fort McPherson complex, which was purchased in 2015, was once a confederate Army base. During the 1800’s, confederate soldiers on that base were fighting the Civil War and making elaborate plans on how to keep 3.9 million Negro people enslaved in the United States.


“Now, that land is owned by one Negro.”


His bold statement was met with a standing ovation by the celebrity-filled audience, including media mogul, Nick Cannon and acclaimed singer, Rihanna. He quickly addressed the hot button issue that was brought to light in 2015 when the managing editor of Broadway Black, April Reign, created the hashtag #OscarSoWhite. This brought attention to the popular opinion that the Academy had a history of snubbing and overlooking the performances and achievements of people of color in the film industry.


"While you’re fighting for a seat at the table, I’ll be down in Atlanta, building my own!” Perry passionately declared. “What I know for sure is that if I can just build this table, God will prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies. Rather than be an icon, I would rather be an inspiration."


He thanked BET and Viacom for being his new family, sounding eager to continue the recent partnership that is producing the new BET Plus Streaming Service, which will include new original shows and Perry’s tremendous library of previous content. The service will cater to the currently underserved community of African Americans who are the leading consumers of streaming services and typically possess higher Subscription Video on Demand service adoption rates than other target audiences. It will also allow the visionary to branch out into a new area of unscripted and variety shows, giving him even more opportunity to work with new voices and shine a spotlight on previously undiscovered talent.


Tyler Perry concluded his powerful acceptance speech by sending out a call to action, using the 19th Annual 2019 BET Awards as his platform.


“I want you to hear this. To every dreamer who is in this room, there are people whose lives are tied into your dream. Own your stuff. Own your business. Own your way!”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Naiomi Pitre is an author, motivational speaker, and producer of film and stage plays. She is the founder of Pray and Publish Books & Media Group, a company whose mission is to spread the word of God’s love and salvation through various forms of media and special events. Her passions are traveling the world, encouraging people who have experienced depression, addiction, and abuse, and utilizing her gift of writing to uplift others.