"Because in my grandmother’s quilt, there are no patches that represented Black people on television," he said as he accepted the award. "But in my quilt, her grandson is being celebrated by the Television Academy"

By Tomás Mier
September 20, 2020 11:41 PM
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Tyler Perry just made history as the recipient of this year's Emmy Governors Award.

During Sunday evening's 72nd Emmy Awards, Perry was the first Black person to ever individually be awarded the honor.

The director, 51, accepted the award on behalf of himself and The Perry Foundation and gave an impassioned speech, in which he opened up about a quilt his grandmother gifted him when he was 19. At the time, he was "embarrassed by it" and thought it had "no value," he said, but later learned its value.

"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," said Perry.

The Governors Award — which was left out of last year's Emmys — is given to “an individual, company, organization or project for outstanding achievement in the arts and sciences or management of television which is either of a cumulative nature or so extraordinary and universal in nature as to go beyond the scope of the Emmy Awards presented in the categories and areas of the competition.”

Perry was introduced by Oprah and Chris Rock before accepting the award.

Read his full acceptance speech below:

I wanted to say a very special thank you to the Television Academy, to the Board of Governors, Tim Coleman, especially, to Ari Emanuel, to Matt Johnson, to everybody, to Tyler Perry Studios and my foundation. This is amazing. I didn’t expect to feel this way.

When I was about 19 years old ... 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.

When the dog got wet, I dried him off with it. When I needed to change the oil in the car, I laid it on the ground. I had no respect for this quilt. Many years later, as I was walking past those fancy antique stores that I could finally go in and shop, I saw in the window a quilt that looked just like the one that she had given me.

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."

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.

Tyler Perry
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

I dismissed her work and her story because it didn’t look like what I thought it should. Now, whether we know it or not, we are all sewing our own quilts with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experiences and our memories. Like in my own quilt, one of my memories was I was about 10 years old. I remember my father standing at the door and I was wondering why he stood there so long.

He was frustrated and he walked away and I asked my mother what was going on. She said he had worked all weekend and he was waiting for the man to come and pay him and he never did. They needed the money at the time. And, I tell you, she was so frustrated, she turned to me and she said, “Don’t you ever stand by a door waiting for White folks to do nothing for you.”

Now, my mother wasn’t a racist. But, in her quilt, she couldn’t imagine a world where her son was not waiting by the door for someone. In her quilt, she couldn’t imagine me building my own door and holding that door open for thousands of people. In my mother’s quilt, she couldn’t imagine me owning land that was once a Confederate Army base where Confederate soldiers plotted and planned on how to keep Blacks enslaved.

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And now, on that very land, Black people, White people, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, ex-cons, Latin, Asian, all of us, come together, working. All coming together to add patches to a quilt that is as diverse as it can be. Diversity at its best.

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. 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.

The 72nd Emmy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, aired live on ABC from 8-11 p.m. ET.

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