Tyler Perry shared a personal story about his grandmother and celebrating Black heritage on Sunday night at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards.
The actor, producer and philanthropist made history by becoming the first African American individual to receive the Television Academy’s Governors Award. After being recognized by Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock for shaping television and humanitarian efforts, Perry accepted the honor on behalf of himself and the Tyler Perry Foundation.
During his moving speech, Perry shared the story of a quilt his grandmother gave him when he was a teenager.
“When I was about 19 years old, I left home and my grandmother, she gave me a quilt that she had made. And this quilt was something I didn’t really care for. It had all these different colors and these different patches in it. And I was quite embarrassed by it. I had no value in it at all,” he recalled.
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The multi-hyphenate then shared that he disrespected the quilt for years until one day he walked past a storefront and saw a quilt that looked almost identical to the one his grandmother had made.
“As I’m in that store wondering where that quilt was, there was an attendant who walked up to me and said, ‘Let me tell you about this quilt. It was made by an African American woman who was a former slave and each patch in the quilt she had put in represented a part of her life. One part was from a dress that she was wearing when she found out she was free. Another part was from her wedding dress when she jumped the broom,” Perry recalled.
“And as I was hearing this story, I became so embarrassed. 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,” he said. “Now, whether we know it or not, we are all sewing our own quilts with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experiences and our memories.”
The artist reflected on the full-circle moment and how he believes the industry is beginning to rebuild a new quilt, one that represents diversity and equality.
“I stand here tonight to say thank you to all of the people who are celebrating and know the value of every patch, and every story, and every color that makes up this quilt that is our business, this quilt that is our lives, this quilt that is America,” he said. “Because in my grandmother’s quilt, there are no patches that represented Black people on television. But in my quilt, her grandson is being celebrated by the Television Academy. I thank you for this. God bless you.”
Watch his full speech below.