Tyler Perry was honored at the Sunday Night Emmys with one of Television Academy’s top honors, the Governors Award, which is bestowed upon a single person, project, or entity for “extraordinary” or “cumulative” accomplishment – in fact a prize of excellence for Poiré. Past winners are “Star Trek”, “American Idol”, Jerry Lewis and PBS.
In his acceptance speech, he told a moving story about a quilt his grandmother gave him and how it was emblematic of his own life – and the African American experience at large.
Here is the transcript of his speech:
TYLER PERRY: I want to say a very special thank you to the television academy. On the Board of Governors, Kim Coleman, Ari Emanuel, to Matt Johnson. To everyone at Tyler Perry Studios and my foundation. This is amazing. I didn’t expect to feel that way.
When I was about 19, I left home and my grandmother. She gave me a quilt that she had made. And this quilt was something I didn’t really want. It had all these different colors and different patches. And I was quite embarrassed. I had no value in it. When the dog got wet, I dried him with it. When I needed to change the oil in the car, I put it on the ground. I had no respect for this quilt.
Many years later, as I walked past one of those fancy antique stores where I could finally go shopping, I saw in a window a quilt that looked like the one she gave me. . And as I’m in the store wondering where that quilt was, there was an attendant who walked up to me and said, “Let me tell you about this quilt.”
It was made by an African American woman who was a former slave. And every patch in the quilt she put on was a part of her life. Part was from a dress she was wearing when she found out she was free. Another part was from her wedding dress when she jumped the broom.
And hearing this story, I got so embarrassed. I was there, a person who prides itself on celebrating our heritage, our culture, and I didn’t even recognize the value of my grandmother’s quilt. I dismissed his work and his story because it didn’t sound like what I thought it should. Now whether we know it or not, we all sew our own quilts with our thoughts and behaviors, experiences and memories.
Like in my own quilt, one of my memories when I was about 10 years old, I remember my dad standing at the door. And I wondered why he had been there so long. He was frustrated and he left. And I asked my mom what was going on. She said he had been working all week and was waiting for the man to come and pay him, and he never did. They needed the money back then.
And I’m going to tell you that she was so frustrated that she turned to me and she said, “Never stand by a door waiting for white people to do nothing for you.” My mother was not a racist. But in her quilt, she couldn’t imagine a world where her son was not waiting for anyone at the door.
In her quilt, she couldn’t imagine me building my own door and keeping it open for thousands of people. In my mother’s quilt, she couldn’t imagine that I owned land that was once a Confederate Army base, where Confederate soldiers plotted and planned how to keep black people in slavery.
And now, on this same earth, blacks, whites, gays, straight, lesbians, transgender, ex-cons, Latins, Asians, we all come together to work. All brought together to add patches to as diverse a quilt as it gets, diversity at its best. I stand here tonight to say thank you to everyone who celebrates and knows the value of every patch, every story and every color that makes up this quilt that is our business, this quilt that is our life. This quilt that is America. Because in my grandmother’s quilt there were no patches that depicted black people on television.
But in my quilt her grandson is celebrated by the Television Academy. Thank you. God bless you. Thank you.