Tyler Perry was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2021 Oscars on Sunday.
The award is given annually to “an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.” For the first time, the award went to two recipients: Perry and the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF).
Viola Davis introduced Perry with glowing remarks. “Tyler Perry personifies empathy,” she said. “Tyler knows what it is to be hungry, to be without a home, to feel unsafe and uncertain. So when he buys groceries for 1,000 of his neighbors, supports a women’s shelter, or quietly pays tuition for a hard-working student, Tyler is coming from a place of shared experience.”
Perry dedicated his acceptance speech to “anyone who wants to stand in the middle — no matter what’s around the walls.”
“Because that’s where healing, happens — that’s where conversation happens, that’s where change happens,” he continued. “It happens in the middle. So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment, and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you too.”
“In this time, with all of the internet and social media and algorithms and everything that wants us to think a certain way — the 24-hour news cycle — it is my hope that all of us will teach our kids, and not only to remember, but just refuse hate,” the movie mogul shared.
“Don’t hate anybody. I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican or because they are Black or white or LGBTQ,” he continued. “I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer, I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate.”
When the recipients of the 2021 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award were announced in January, Academy President David Rubin praised Perry’s incredible impact.
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“Tyler’s cultural influence extends far beyond his work as a filmmaker,” he said in a statement. “He has quietly and steadily focused on humanitarian and social justice causes from the beginning of his career, caring for people who are most often ignored.”
Some past recipients of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award include Geena Davis, Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, Debbie Reynolds, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Quincy Jones, Arthur Hiller, Roger Mayer, Sherry Lansing, Jerry Lewis, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Harry Belafonte and more.
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