ATLANTA — Atlanta's own Tyler Perry received a humanitarian award during Sunday's Oscars ceremony. Doing what he does best, the actor and filmmaker delivered a powerful message during his acceptance speech -- decrying racial hatred and encouraging healing.
“My mother taught me to refuse hate,” Perry said after he was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award . “She taught me to refuse blanket judgment.”
The once homeless man, turned billionaire said: "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."
He told a story about a homeless woman he met. He said he went to give her money, but she refused. She simply asked for a pair of shoes. She told him she thought he'd hate her for asking.
"I’m like how can I hate you when I used to be you? How can I hate you when I had a mother who grew up in a Jim Crow South in Louisiana, rural Louisiana right across the border from Mississippi, who at 9 or 10 years old was grieving the death of Emmett Till."
He added: "It is my hope that all of us, we teach our kids and I want to remember, just refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody. 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 has constantly supported various civil rights causes and has inspired thousands with his random acts of kindness. During the pandemic, he has given back to local residents and has offered tons of wisdom on his personal social media channels.
The Motion Picture and Television Fund also received the award, the first time the Academy gave it to two recipients and the first time an organization received the award.
Both Perry and the MPTF have strived to help people in the entertainment industry impacted by the health crisis. Perry helped create a safe way for many to return to work at his Tyler Perry Studios while the MPTF has provided social services to nearly 9,000 members.
“Tyler’s cultural influence extends far beyond his work as a filmmaker,” said academy president David Rubin in a statement. “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.”
Perry concluded his emotional speech by dedicating it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle.
"Stand in the middle ’cause that’s where healing happens. That’s where 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 too."
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.