When Tyler Perry accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars on Sunday night, he used the moment to offer a message of unity.
“Refuse hate,” he told the audience. “Refuse blanket judgement.”
The 51-year-old Hollywood filmmaker, actor and writer, who wore custom Giorgio Armani, was being honored for his philanthropy.
“When I set out to help someone, it is my intention to do just that,” said Perry. “I’m not trying to do anything other than meet somebody at their humanity.”
He went on to describe an encounter he had years ago with a homeless woman. It was a moment that reminded Perry, who reportedly has an estimated net worth of $1 billion, of his own experience living on the streets years ago.
“’Excuse me, sir, do you have any shoes?’” he recounted her asking. “It stopped me cold, because I remember being homeless and having one pair of shoes, and they were bent over at the heels.”
He was outside of a production studio he was renting at the time and was able to offer her shoes from the wardrobe department. Teary-eyed, she told him: “Thank you, Jesus, my feet are off the ground.”
Perry dedicated the award to “anyone who wants to stand in the middle — no matter what’s around the walls — stand in the middle, because that’s where healing happens. That’s where conversation happens. That’s where change happens…Anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgement and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you too.”
He was inspired to share these words because of “where we are in the country, in the world,” he told WWD moments later in the virtual press room.
“Everybody’s grabbed a corner and a color, and nobody wants to come to the middle to have a conversation,” he continued. “Everybody’s polarized, and it’s in the middle where things change. I’m hoping that that inspires people to meet us in the middle so that we can get back to some semblance of normal as this pandemic is over, [and] we can all get to a place where we’re showing love and kindness to each other again.”