Tyler Perry honored with Emmys Governor’s Award: ‘We’re all sewing our own quilts’

Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock shared warm words about the 'talented, crazy' mogul

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The 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards were full of powerful moments, but when Tyler Perry accepted the coveted Governor’s Award, his speech served up the inspiration we need.

Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock presented the award to the billionaire described as “talented and crazy.” In his touching acceptance remarks, the 51-year-old content creator, actor, philanthropist, and studio head told a story about a quilt his grandmother gave to him and likely prompted tons of tears from viewers at home.

“This is amazing. I didn’t expect to feel this way,” he said before sharing the anecdote that highlighted the strength and impact of storytelling about our community and collective experiences.

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Tyler Perry attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Here’s the full speech:

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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Check out his full speech below:

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