Film-maker Tyler Perry delivered a powerful speech at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards as he was honoured with the ultimate icon accolade.
The director, actor and writer, known for his films featuring the character of Madea, an angry, elderly black woman, was praised for promoting diversity in front of and behind the camera.
Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P Henson introduced Perry at the ceremony, crediting him with being the “first to pay me my worth” in Hollywood, following their work on 2008 movie The Family That Preys.
Taking to the stage, Perry, 49, told the star-studded audience of his tough upbringing, including witnessing his mother suffering domestic abuse at the hands of his father.
He said his first 10 films were made for his mother, and he wanted her to “know she’s worthy, to let black women know they are worthy, special, powerful, amazing”.
Perry, who has built an entertainment empire with films and TV shows typically attracting an African-American audience, then spoke about eschewing Hollywood in favour of building his studio in Atlanta, Georgia, on the site of a former Confederate army base.
— #BETAwards (@BETAwards) June 24, 2019
He added: “Which meant that there were 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.”
The audience, including Rihanna, Mary J Blige and John Legend, gave Perry a standing ovation.
Perry, who starred as Colin Powell in Vice alongside Christian Bale last year, also addressed the issue of diversity in Hollywood.
He said: “While everybody else is fighting for a seat at the table, talking about ‘#OscarsSoWhite, #OscarsSoWhite, I said ‘Y’all go ahead and do that. While you’re fighting for a seat at the table, I’ll be down in Atlanta building my own’.
“Because what I know for sure is that if I could just build this table, God will prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies.”
Tyler finished by saying he did not want to be an icon, instead insisting “I want to be an inspiration”.