Tyler Perry delivered a powerful speech which touched upon the lack of representation for people of color in the television industry as he accepted the Governors Award at the Emmys on Sunday night (September 20, 2020).
The 51-year-old director, writer, and producer was the recipient of the gong at the 2020 ceremony, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Perry and his foundation chosen for their ongoing inclusive efforts and other philanthropic initiatives.
The Madea actor was one of the few stars who opted to attend the show in person, rather than tuning in from home, and told a story about a quilt his grandmother had made him as he referenced the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of diversity in Hollywood.
“When I was about 19 years old, I left home and my grandmother, she gave me a quilt that she had made,” he remembered. “And this quilt was something I didn’t really care for. It had all these different colors and these different patches in it. And I was quite embarrassed by it. I had no value in it at all.”
In an antiques store years later, Perry came across a similar quilt, and the salesperson told him it had come from a freed slave woman.
“I became so embarrassed,” the Madea star continued. “Here I was, a person who prides myself on celebrating our heritage, our culture, and I didn’t even recognize the value in my grandmother’s quilt. I dismissed her work and her story because it didn’t look like what I thought it should. Now, whether we know it or not, we are all sewing our own quilts with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experiences, and our memories.”
He concluded: “I stand here tonight to say thank you to all of the people who are celebrating and know the value of every patch, and every story, and every color that makes up this quilt that is our business, this quilt that is our lives, this quilt that is America.
“Because in my grandmother’s quilt, there are no patches that represented Black people on television. But in my quilt, her grandson is being celebrated by the Television Academy. I thank you for this. God bless you.”