The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards proved memorable for Black talent, with this year’s annual awards program for excellence in television programming making for the most Black nominees in Emmy history. During the awards that took place virtually this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyler Perry took home a very prestigious award, and Regina King and Zendaya — who made history — were among other award recipients.
One of the biggest wins of the night might have gone to Mr. Perry. The brainchild behind the comedic “Madea” franchise and owner of Tyler Perry Studios was awarded the 2020 Governor’s Award for his career achievements and providing opportunities for Black creatives in the entertainment industry.
Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock spoke on the director’s outstanding achievements. “He’s a man of deep faith, and he’s a visionary,” Winfrey said, adding that Perry was the recipient of the award because “he dreamed the impossible dream.” The legendary talk show host highlighted that when Perry reached the top, he gave Black people opportunities to work both in front of and behind the cameras.
After accepting his award, the “Good Deeds” director, producer and actor reflected on a quilt his grandmother once gave him, which he said he didn’t’ appreciate at the time. Later he learned about the history behind a similar quilt made by a woman who was a former slave; each piece of the quilt represented a memory in her life’s journey. Perry noted that he’d made achievements that his ancestors could not have imagined. Each person working for him — the marginalized and underappreciated of every background — is adding to the quilt that will take them to higher heights of achieving what may have seemed impossible.
“Now, whether we know it or not, we are all sewing our own quilts with our thoughts, our behaviors, and our experiences and our memories,” Perry expressed. “In my mother’s quilt, she couldn’t imagine me owning land that was once a Confederate Army base. And now, on that very land, Black people, white people, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, ex-cons, Latin, Asian, all of us come together, working. All coming together to add patches to a quilt that is as diverse as it can be, diversity at its best.”
Actress Zendaya also had a historic night of her own. The “Euphoria” star made history by becoming the youngest actress to win the award for lead actress in a drama and the second Black woman to win in that category, following Viola Davis in 2015. This was Zendaya’s first Emmy nomination and win. In her acceptance speech, the 24 year old gave a heartfelt message to other young aspiring creatives. “I just wanna say that there is hope in the young people…to all my peers out there doing the work in the streets: I see you, I admire you, I thank you.”
Regina King accepted the award for lead actress in a limited series for the HBO special “Watchmen.” The now five-time Emmy winner wore a T-shirt emblazoned with Breonna Taylor’s face across the front. Actress Uzo Aduba also wore a T-shirt featuring the name of the 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed by police in a botched raid back in March. Aduba received an award for best supporting actress in a limited series for her role as Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in “Mrs. America.”
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II won an award for the best supporting actor in a limited series for his role as Dr. Manhattan in HBO. The actor shouted out West Oakland and dedicated his award to “all the Black women in my life” during his speech.