When Tyler Perry was asked by PEOPLE to write an essay about hope and his vision for the future of America, he took an uncharacteristic pause. "I initially said no, and that was strange for me because I’m a man of faith and I believe greatly in hope," Perry says.
"My reluctance wasn’t because I didn’t think it was important, and certainly not that I’m not outraged at the murder of George Floyd and so many others."
"It was simply because I was exhausted," the star explains in what would ultimately become a deeply personal and powerful first-person essay for this week’s cover story.
"I’m exhausted from all the hate and the division, the vitriol that I see online from one to another. I’m exhausted from seeing these kinds of senseless murders play out over and over again with no changes in our society."
In the end, Perry, 50, a big-hearted humanitarian with an unending track record of helping those less advantaged, shared his pain, his thoughts for his 5-year-old son and his hope for a nation seeking change.
“The level of racism and brutality that George Floyd faced is something that we as black people know all too well. When I saw that video, I had so many raw, guttural emotions. I felt for him and his family, I felt for all of us as black people, I felt for my five-year-old son,” he wrote. “As I watched with tears in my eyes, it brought back a flood of years of emotions from carrying what feels like the weight of racism on my neck.”
Channeling his emotions, Perry says, “I dried my eyes and put pen to paper for not only myself, not only for hope, but for morning to come for the millions of us who just want to be treated fairly, for those of us who want justice for all, and for my five-year-old son.”
Perry already knows he will soon have to have tough conversations with his son, Aman, who he shares with partner Gelila.
“I know that as his father, a black man in America, it is my duty to prepare him for the harsh reality that awaits him outside of the watchful eyes of his loving parents,” he writes. “It will be a hard, heartbreaking conversation but one that I must have and will have soon.”
In his essay, which Perry reads aloud for an exclusive video to accompany the PEOPLE cover story, he offers hints of promise for what lies ahead. “I will explain to [Aman] that because we are only 12 to 14 percent of the population, this fight will continue to be a long and arduous one, but I will tell him with pride to never give up. I will tell him that progress is made in small steps and even if you get exhausted to fight on, because there are always signs of daybreak before the morning comes.”
The recorded version of Perry’s essay lasts for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the exact length of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used a knee to pin Floyd by the neck as he died.