Tyler Perry, the director who won the humanitarian honor at the Academy Awards, spoke of unity during his acceptance speech Sunday and said his mother taught him as a boy to refuse hate and refuse to succumb to "blanket judgments."
"And 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 new cycle…it is my hope that all of us would teach our kids, and I want to remember: just refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody."
His message comes at a trying time in the country. Last week, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd, and protests have erupted over two fatal police shootings in Columbus, Ohio, and Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Perry said he refuses to hate someone "because they are Mexican or because they are Black or White, or LBGTQ."
"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," he said.
His life could be a screenplay. He went from being homeless to become a force as a filmmaker to now being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His career has been built on the success of his "Madea" stage play tours and movies along with his "Why Did I Get Married?" films.
He addressed the audience at the 93rd Academy Awards at Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theater, and recalled an interaction that he had with a homeless woman outside a studio. He said he saw her out of the corner of his eye leaving a studio and thought to himself, "She’s homeless, let me give her some money."
He said he reached into his pocket and she said, "Excuse me, sir, do you have any shoes?"
He said the comment stopped him in his tracks because he remembered being homeless, with shoes bent inward at the heels. He said he took her into the studio and they were surrounded by boxes and racks of clothes and he remembered the woman looking down at her feet. He said when she looked up, she had tears in her eyes.
"She said, ‘Thank you, Jesus, my feet are off the ground,’" he said. He said he related to the woman because his mother "grew up in a Jim Crow South in Louisiana, rural Louisiana" and as a young woman, she grieved the "deaths of the Civil Rights boys and the little girls" who died in the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing.
He said it is his hope that parents teach their children what he learned as a boy and just refuse hate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report