The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented media mogul Tyler Perry and his foundation with the Governors Award — one of its top honors — at the 2020 Emmy Awards ceremony on September 20.
Per the Academy, the Governors Award is presented each year to “an individual, company, organization or project for outstanding achievement in the arts and sciences or management of television which is either of a cumulative nature or so extraordinary and universal in nature as to go beyond the scope of the Emmy Awards presented in the categories and areas of the competition.”
Perry and The Perry Foundation were chosen this year for their ongoing efforts to be inclusive in terms of employment in front of and behind the camera, as well as other philanthropic initiatives.
“Tyler Perry has done what no one had done before him — make it as an outsider,” Oprah Winfrey, in presenting his tribute alongside Chris Rock said.
“And of course Hollywood welcomed an independent Black man with open arms,” Rock said, jokingly, before adding, “They thought he was just a fad.”
Perry then walked out to accept his Governors Award in person. In a moving speech he drew upon his own history. “Don’t you ever stand by the door waiting on white folks to do nothing for you,” he recalled his mother saying to him. He went on to talk about how his studio near Atlanta is on the site of an old Confederate army base. “In my grandmother’s quilt there were no patches for Black people on television,” he concluded an ongoing metaphor about how his grandmother’s quilt represented key moments in his family’s history. “And now her grandson is being honored by the Television Academy.”
A year ago, Perry brought the house down at the BET Awards during his acceptance speech for the Ultimate Icon honor, issuing a powerful call to action on the necessity for African American proprietorship as a path to wealth-building and influence. It’s an idea that has been a critical motivator for Perry since his days on the so-called Chitlin Circuit — a historical network of venues that provided black entertainers safe spaces to perform.
The multihyphenate is now the outright owner of one of the largest studio lots in America — the first African American to ever do so. The $250 million Atlanta-based compound which was ironically once a Confederate Army base, occupies the former 330-acre Fort McPherson military base, which Perry purchased in 2015.
Best known for playing the no-nonsense matriarch Madea on stage and on the screen, the prolific Perry’s resume comprises of over two dozen plays, movies and television shows, as well two New York Times bestselling books, in a career that spans 30 years. Collectively, they have generated more than $2 billion in grosses to date.
Perry has also supported civil rights causes, and has been inspirational with his acts of kindness, including surprising seniors and other at-risk shoppers at grocery stores across Atlanta by paying for their groceries.
The Television academy honored him for “his unprecedented achievements in television and his commitment to offering opportunities to marginalized communities.”
2020 marks the return of the Governors Award, honoring exceptional achievements in the television arts and sciences. We’re proud to announce this year’s recipient @TylerPerry and The Perry Foundation for their impact in television, and ongoing commitment to humanitarian efforts. pic.twitter.com/NVDpPiRASx
— Television Academy (@TelevisionAcad) August 18, 2020
Additionally, Governors Award selection committee Chair Eva Basler said in a press statement: “Tyler Perry has changed the face of television and inspired a new generation of content creators. He pioneered a new brand of storytelling that engages people of color both in front of and behind the camera, and his shows have resonated with a global audience.”
The Governors Award comes just seven days after Perry’s 51st birthday which was on September 13.
Previous recipients include “Star Trek,” “American Idol,” “Masterpiece Theater” and Comic Relief.
The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards took place virtually for the first time, with nominees staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.