One of the constant criticisms of Hollywood is that it’s not diverse enough. While I’m not even remotely convinced of that, some in the acting industry take the issue very seriously, and fair enough. I’m not in that industry so it may be a different story behind the scenes. It’s just hard to justify the claim when I can see evidence to the contrary on my own.
Also, just a side note, taking Hollywood awards seriously is a bad idea. It’s more about politics than talent.
Madea creator Tyler Perry, regardless of his belief, isn’t going to let anything like that trip him up. The filmmaker/entrepreneur is too busy forging his own path and rejecting the victimhood status that so many in the modern era put on themselves in order to get a step up.
During an acceptance speech at the BET Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night for the Ultimate Icon Award, Perry, as IndieWire put it, “made the themes of ownership, self-reliance and opening doors for others the cornerstones of his nearly four-minute speech.”
Perry started by talking about how helping others is precisely what drove him to be where he is now, recalling a heartfelt story about how he helped an old man cross a six-lane road and connected that to helping his mother “cross” from the pain she experienced from her abuse at the hands of Perry’s father.
“When I started hiring Taraji, Viola Davis, and Idris Elba, they couldn’t get jobs in this town but God blessed me to be in a position to be able to hire them,” Perry said. “I was trying to help somebody cross.”
This desire to help lead Perry to build a studio in Georgia where a Confederate base once stood according to IndieWire:
That obligation to helping others cross led to his building his own massive studio in one of Atlanta’s poor neighborhoods, which also happened to be the grounds of a former Confederate Army base. It’s a doubly symbolic move that serves as both an inspiration for young black children, but also, as he put it: “[it] meant 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,” Perry said, as the Microsoft Theater audience stood while applauding.
This led to Perry talking about the “#OscarsSoWhite” controversy, which he dismissed in light of something bigger.
“While everybody was fighting for a seat at the table, talking about ‘Oscars so white – Oscars so white,’ I said ‘y’all go ahead and do that. While y’all are fighting for a seat at the table, I’ll be down in Atlanta building my own.'”
This was received pretty warmly by the crowd.
“Because what I know for sure is that if I could just build this table then God would prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies,” continued Perry.
“Rather than be an icon I want to be an inspiration,” added Perry.