The filmmaker and philanthropist was described by
Viola Davis as someone who "personifies empathy" before the 51-year-old took the stage at Los Angeles' Union Station.
"Tyler knows what it is to be hungry, to be without a home, to feel unsafe and uncertain," she said. "So when he buys groceries for 1,000 of his neighbours, supports a women's shelter, or quietly pays tuition for a hard-working student, Tyler is coming from a place of shared experience."
In accepting his award, Tyler said he learned from his mother, who taught him the importance of refusing to pass "blanket judgment" on others.
"It is my hope that all of us would teach our kids to refuse hate," Tyler said as he accepted his award. "Don't hate anybody. I refuse to hate someone because they're Mexican or because they are Black or white, or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they're a police officer or because they're Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate."
In the last year, Tyler has done some incredible things with his Tyler Perry Studios and his Tyler Perry Foundation during the
In April 2020, he paid for elderly shoppers' groceries at dozens of Kroger stores in Atlanta and New Orleans. He also created a quarantine bubble at his studio, ensuring workers there were able to keep their jobs and also worked to get everyone vaccinated.
Tyler founded the studio and foundation in 2006, and was the first Black American man to exclusively own his own studio. The foundation has supported Feeding America and Covenant House, and has a huge focus on ensuring no American is homeless.
After Hurricane Katrina, Tyler, who is from New Orleans, also helped build a community for survivors of that disaster in that city. He's also contributed millions of dollars to disaster relief in Haiti, Texas and Puerto Rico to help those who were affected by the 2010 earthquakes, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Dorian.
Anti-racism is also a big part of his philanthropic efforts. In 2009, he made the largest ever individual donation to the NAACP, contributing US$1 million as the organization turned 100 years old.
In the press room backstage, he said he could feel his mother's presence with him that evening, and that he was "carrying her with me."
"Everybody is polarized, but it's in the middle where things change, so I'm hoping that inspires people to meet us in the middle and get back to some semblance of normal as this pandemic is over, where we can get to a place where we're showing love and kindness to each other again."