"I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican or because they are Black or white or LGBTQ," Tyler Perry said during his acceptance speech. "I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian."

By Ale Russian and Nicholas Rice
April 25, 2021 11:10 PM
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Tyler Perry was co-honored with a special award at the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday night.

The Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing body of the Academy Awards, awarded Perry, 51, and the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Taking the Oscars stage to accept the award after an introduction from Viola Davis, Perry was greeted with a standing ovation from his peers.

"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," Perry, who wore a custom Giorgio Armani tuxedo, began his acceptance speech.

Tyler Perry Academy Awards
Credit: ABC

Describing an experience from years ago when he came across a homeless woman, Perry recounted how instead of wanting money, she wanted a pair of shoes. "It stopped me cold because I remember being homeless and having one pair of shoes and they were bent over at the heel," he said.

tyler perry
Credit: Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty

Perry then brought the woman into the studio he was working at and guided her to the wardrobe department.

"I'm waiting for her to look up and all this time she's looking down, she finally looks up, she's got tears in her eyes, [and] she said, 'Thank you Jesus, my feet are off the ground,'" he said. "In the moment I just 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?'"

Comparing her situation with his own previous experiences, Perry continued, "My mother taught me to refuse hate. She taught me to refuse blanket judgment."

"And in this time, 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 would teach our kids, and I want to remember just refuse hate, don't hate anybody," he added. "Don't hate anybody."

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"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 said. "I would hope that we would refuse hate."

Wrapping up his inspirational message, Perry then said that he dedicates his award "to anyone who wants to stand in the middle, no matter what's around the wall, stand in the middle because that's where healing happens. That's what 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," he concluded. "God bless you and thank you."

"There has been such widespread generosity in our industry that limiting the Hersholt Humanitarian Award to one recipient, this year in particular, was impossible. So, we are breaking with tradition and giving two awards to honor that spirit," Academy president David Rubin said in a statement when Perry's honor was first announced in January.

"Tyler's cultural influence extends far beyond his work as a filmmaker," Rubin continued. "He has quietly and steadily focused on humanitarian and social justice causes from the beginning of his career, caring for people who are most often ignored."

The media mogul has made headlines for years for his charitable work in his home state of Georgia, especially during the COVID-19 health crisis and throughout the ongoing movement for racial justice.

The MPTF, who shared the honor with Perry, is entering its 100th year as an organization providing financial and emotional relief to industry members and their families, including case management, financial assistance for basic living expenses, palliative care, and senior and childcare services. 

The 93rd Annual Academy Awards are airing live from Los Angeles on Sunday, April 25 on ABC.