The 2020 Emmys were historic for so many reasons, and it was especially momentous for the recipient of the Governor's Award, Tyler Perry. And while accepting the award at the Emmys on Sunday night, Perry shared a moving story about his grandmother and a meaningful quilt she gave him.
At this year's Emmys, Perry was handed the prestigious Governor's Award by the Television Academy, an award that is given 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," as per the Academy. Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock both delivered speeches about Perry's activism through his Perry Foundation, with Winfrey noting in her tribute that "Tyler Perry has done what no one had done before him — make it as an outsider," according to Indie Wire.
As a producer, philanthropist, actor, and writer, Perry has broken down barriers in Hollywood like few people before him. And as he explained in his moving speech on Sunday, he can trace it all back to his upbringing from both his mother and his grandmother. His mother once told him, as he explained, "Don’t you ever stand by the door waiting on white folks to do nothing for you."
His grandmother's lesson was no less transformative. As Perry explained it, "When I was about 19 years old I left home and my grandmother, she gave me a quilt that she had made. And this quilt was something that 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."
Perry went on to explain he didn't really value it for many years. "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."
Perry also talked about his own mother's quilt, "In her quilt, she couldn't imagine me owning land that was once a Confederate army base."
As for his grandmother, Perry said: "In my grandmother’s quilt, there were no patches for Black people on television. And now her grandson is being honored by the Television Academy.”
Tyler Perry's grandmother might not be here, but she would no doubt be proud of the quilt her grandson has created in her absence.