Accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his efforts in helping others during the pandemic, Tyler Perry gave a powerful speech at the 2021 Oscars in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

“Thank you so much. They only gave me a few minutes, so I wanna say a very special thanks to Miss Viola Davis, who is nominated tonight and doing this. Thank you, thank you,” he said. “You know 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. Like a case in point, this one time I remember I was, maybe it was about 17 years ago. I rented this building, and we were using it for production. I was walking to my car one day, and I see this woman coming up out of the corner of my eye. I say, she’s homeless, let me give her some money.”

He continued, “Judgement. I wish I had time to talk about judgement. Anyway, I reach in my pocket, and I’m about to give her the money. She says, ‘Excuse me sir, do you have any shoes?’ It stopped me cold because I remember being homeless and having one pair of shoes, and they were bent over at the heels.” He then brought her to the wardrobe department and gave the woman a pair of shoes. He remembered her bringing so thankful, “She said, ‘Thank you Jesus, my feet are off the ground.’

“In that moment I recall her saying to me, ‘I thought you would hate me for asking.’ I’m like, ‘how can I hate you when I used to be you?’ How can I hate you when I had a mother who grew up in a Jim Crow South in Louisiana, rural Louisiana right across the border from Mississippi, who at 9 or 10 years old was grieving the death of Emmett Till. And she got a little bit older. She was grieving the death of the Civil Rights boys, and the little girls who were in the bombing in Alabama. She grieved all this all these years, and I remember being a little boy and coming home, and she was at home like, ‘what are you doing home? You supposed to be at work.’ She was in tears that day. She said there was a bomb threat, and she couldn’t believe that someone wanted to blow up this place where she worked. Where she took care of all these toddlers. It was the Jewish Community Center,” he said.

“My mother taught me to refuse hate,” he explained. “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, we teach our kids and I want to remember, 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.”

Perry added, “I would hope that we would refuse hate, and I want to take this Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle, no matter what’s around the wall. Stand in the middle ’cause 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. I appreciate it. Thank you.”

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