September 21, 2020
Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
“Don’t you ever stand by a door waiting for white folks to do nothing for you.”
Tyler Perry received the Governors Award at the 72nd Emmy Awards. As one of the Television Academy’s top honors, the 51-year-old director was the first Black person to be commended this award individually.
Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock introduced Perry before accepting the award and reminded viewers why he is deserving of this level of praise. With 23 feature films under his belt, $1 billion in movie ticket sales, and 330 acres of his very own production studio, his humble beginnings are often hidden in the midst of his accomplishments. The comedian recalled his rocky beginnings by noting how his first project was a complete fail.
“So he wrote a play, invested his own money in it. And guess what?” Rock said. “It flopped. Hard.” Perry thought that 1,200 people would show up but only 30 did. After he found himself living in his car, this served as a “mighty motivator” which ultimately lead to him finding success.
His inspirational speech reflected on his past and revealed the history behind a quilt that was gifted to him from his grandmother when he was 19 years old.
“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,” he recalled. “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.”
Perry later discovered the importance of the quilt many years later when he entered an antique store. Learning that each patch in the quilt represented a part of her life, he was embarrassed for not recognizing the value in his grandmother’s quilt because he “dismissed her work and her story because it didn’t look like what I thought it should.”
As Perry states, since “we are all sewing our own quilts with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experiences and our memories,” he explained a memory that would be in his quilt:
“I remember my father standing at the door and I was wondering why he stood there so long,” he shared. “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.”
It’s true what Oprah said: Tyler Perry found success in his own terms. And now as a result of his accomplishments, his quilt will include the fact that he is being celebrated by the Television Academy when his grandmother’s quilt didn’t even have a patch to represent Black people on television.
Tell us: What would be in your quilt?