Tyler Perry weaved a moving metaphor about a quilt his grandmother once gave him as he accepted the Governors Award for his Tyler Perry Foundation's efforts to ensure diversity and inclusivity and his philanthropic efforts.
Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock presented the 51-year-old producer, actor, writer and director with the award. The Television Academy recognized him for "his unprecedented achievements in television and his commitment to offering opportunities to marginalized communities."
"Tyler Perry has changed the face of television and inspired a new generation of content creators," Eva Basler, chair of the Governors Award selection committee, said in a press release. "He pioneered a new brand of storytelling that engages people of colour both in front of and behind the camera, and his shows have resonated with a global audience."
His Tyler Perry Studios sits on the former Fort McPherson military base in Atlanta, which was once home of the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War. He made sure to point this out in his acceptance speech, in which he shared a moving narrative about a quilt his grandmother had given him for which he had "no respect."
.@tylerperry accepts the Governors Award at the #Emmys, recounting a beautiful story of a quilt his grandmother gave him: "We are all sewing our own quilts...in my mother's quilt, she couldn't imagine me owning land that was once a Confederate Army base." https://t.co/6ibY0IsH43pic.twitter.com/mgCH6h1yx6
— Good Morning America (@GMA) September 21, 2020
He said his feelings about the item changed when he visited an antique store and saw a similar quilt and an attendant told him it was made by a Black American woman who was a former slave and intended each panel to represent a year of her life.
"As I was hearing this story, I became so embarrassed," Tyler said. "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."
Tyler emphasized that every person's life story is very much like that quilt and that we are all sewing our own garments "whether we know it or not."
"In my grandmother's quilt, there are no patches that represented Black people on television," he said, finishing his speech. "But in my quilt, her grandson is being celebrated by the Television Academy."
Congratulations to Tyler on his award!