Tyler Perry invoked his late mother and the example she set for him during a deeply moving speech in which he accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on Sunday night at the 93rd annual Academy Awards. Honored for his “cultural influence extending far beyond his work as a filmmaker,” Perry explained that he’d lived out of his car more than once, owned a single pair of shoes and that he heard stories about racism and America’s racial strife from his mother, Willie Maxine Perry. She grew up in rural Louisiana and lived through Emmett Till’s murder in 1955, the deaths of four young girls killed in bombings in Alabama in 1963, and Dr. King’s assassination in 1968.
Perry, of course, is the actor-producer-director behind dozens of movies and shows, including the Madea films, House of Payne, Alex Cross, The Haves and Have Nots, and Sistas. He also owns the Tyler Perry Studios complex in Atlanta and heads up The Perry Foundation, the aim of which “has been to transform tragedy into triumph by seeding individual potential, supporting communities, and harvesting sustainable change.”During a four-minute Oscar night speech, Perry said, “When I set out to help someone, it is my intention to do just that. I’m not trying to do anything other than meet somebody at their humanity.”He added, “My mother taught me to refuse hate. She taught me to refuse blanket judgment. And in this time, and with all of the internet and social media and algorithms and everything that wants us to think a certain way, the 24-hour news cycle, it is my hope that all of us will teach our kids… just refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody. 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. I would hope we would refuse hate.”Perry continued, dedicating his statuette to anyone who wants to stand in the middle, no matter what’s around the walls. “Stand in the middle,” he implored, “because that’s where healing happens. That’s where conversation happens. That’s where change happens. It happens in the middle. 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.“God bless you, and thank you, Academy,” he concluded. “I appreciate it. Thank you.” Perry’s words are relevant, especially right now. But, as parents, it’s an important reminder. our biggest job is to refuse to pass hate to our kids.
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