Tyler Perry pays tribute to LGBT+ storytellers in powerfully personal Emmys acceptance speech

Tyler Perry holding his Emmy Award

Tyler Perry celebrated LGBT+ and BIPOC storytellers at the Emmy Awards 2020, accepting the Governor’s Ward for outstanding achievement.

The filmmaker — recently coined a billionaire by Forbes — made history at the Emmys as the first Black person to ever be individually awarded the honour, which celebrates a talent “so extraordinary and universal in nature” it surpasses the scope of all other categories.

Tyler Perry accepted the award on behalf of himself and his Perry Foundation with a rousing speech which championed Black, Asian, Latin and LGBT+ filmmakers, and took the form of a deeply personal anecdote about a seemingly worthless quilt his grandmother gave him when he was 19 years old.

“This quilt was something I didn’t really care for,” Perry explained.

“It had all these different colours and these different patches in it. And I was quite embarrassed by it. I had no value in it at all.”

The Madea creator – the only winner to accept their award in person – explained how he would use his grandmother’s quilt to dry off his dog and to lie on when changing the oil in his car.

“I had no respect for this quilt,” he continued.

“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.”

In the store, an attendant approached Perry and told him the significance of this quilt. It had been sewn by a Black American woman who had formerly been enslaved. Each patch was part of the tapestry of her life: from a square of the dress she had been wearing when she learned she was a free woman, to a patch taken from the wedding dress she wore as she “jumped the broom”.

I dismissed her work and her story because it didn’t look like what I thought it should.

“And as I was hearing this story, I became so embarrassed,” he continued. “Here I was, a person who prides myself on celebrating our heritage, our culture, and I didn’t even recognise the value in my grandmother’s quilt.

“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 behaviours, our experiences and our memories.”

In his own quilt, Perry said, would be a memory of his father standing by the front door, waiting for the white man who employed him to deliver his wages. He never did, and Perry recalled his mother saying: “Don’t you ever stand by a door waiting for white folks to do nothing for you.”

Though Perry’s mother “wasn’t a racist”, he explained, it was impossible for her to imagine her son breaking free of the system which had oppressed her own family ofor generations.

“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,” he said, referring to his 330-acre Tyler Perry Studios, America’s largest film production studio and the only one owned outright by an African American person.

“And now, on that very land, Black people, white people, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, ex-cons, Latin, Asian, all of us, come together, working,” he concluded.

“All coming together to add patches to a quilt that is as diverse as it can be. Diversity at its best.”

Emmy Awards 2020 sees Black actors and LGBT+ stories triumph.

Overall the night was a stellar one for LGBT+ stories, with the cast and crew of Schitt’s Creek picking up a record nine Emmys — the most ever for a comedy show in a single year.

Father-and-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy took home Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actor respectively, with Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy winning the equivalent female categories.

For the first time in Emmys history nine of the 18 acting awards went to Black actors – including Zendaya, who became the youngest in history to win Outstanding Actress in a Drama.