Media mogul Tyler Perry is trying to sound an alarm to African American communities as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the country, killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate. Perry eased a financial burden for thousands of seniors in poor communities across the country earlier in the week when he paid the grocery tab for them at 73 different grocery stores in Atlanta and New Orleans.
The star said he is hoping to inspire others into whatever acts of kindness they can manage in their situation. He sat down for a video interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King to talk about his efforts, and why he thinks African Americans are specifically at a high risk of contracting COVID-19.
Read a portion of their conversation below:
Gayle King: Listen, you are no stranger to coming in… for acts of kindness, big and small. Most things people don’t even know about… I think when people see what you do, in some ways, Tyler, that could inspire others.
Tyler Perry: What I’m hoping is that by this, paying for the groceries for these people who are just like me, like my mother, my aunt, come from where I come from… I’m hoping that other people will join in. You know, you may not be able to pay for 73 grocery stores, but maybe you can buy groceries for one person. Maybe you can buy groceries for a neighbor. Because we are going to be hit much harder as African Americans and as poorer people than any other minority in the country, I’m sure. So my hope is that someone will see it and say, “Okay, hey, I can do something to help somebody else.”
King: How did you decide to do that, Tyler? I would imagine a lot of big corporations came to you and said, “Can you please help?”
Perry: I’ve had a few of those. But I wanted… to do something immediate that got to the people immediately. So I reached out to Kroger, reached out to Winn-Dixie, ’cause I remember my mother going to shop every Saturday at Winn-Dixie when I was a kid in all Louisiana and in Georgia… And I wanted to go directly to neighborhoods where the incomes are much lower, and I wanted to really focus and drive the point home there and try and help there.
King: I mean, it really does touch your heart when you see the difference that you made… what it did for people that particular day.
Perry: And that’s what we need right now. We need just some hope. We are inundated with negativity. It’s bad. So many are dying…. our healthcare workers are struggling. They don’t have PPE… all of these things which are true, but they’re also so draining on the soul and spirit… So let’s all kinda spread a little bit of good news to help and encourage and motivate us all through this thing. Because what this has taught us? We’re all one… and we cannot get through this unless we realize, no matter what our race, we’re all one.
King: But you know I asked you once why you always do good deeds like this, and you said it comes from your mother. I think your mother would be very proud of what you do, Tyler.
Perry: Yeah, for sure. And I can tell you this, Gayle. In the last ten years since her passing, there’s not one day that I had not wished that she was on this planet until this coronavirus… my mother had major pre-existing conditions, diabetes, on dialysis… So this is the only time in these ten years since her passing that I’m glad she’s not here to experience this.
King: That’s the other thing they were saying, it’s not that black people are more susceptible, it’s just that some of the conditions that a lot of people in the black community have, that’s the problem.
Perry: That for sure, the underlying conditions that we have. Like, everybody I know from where I come from, there is some sort of underlying condition, be it diabetes or high blood pressure or just obesity or just– there’s always something… So I’m just hoping that we really, really take a moment to take it seriously. Because I’ve seen too many things online saying, “Oh, we don’t get this,” or, “Black people don’t travel abroad so it’s not gonna come to our community.” That is a ridiculous thought. It is coming to- it has come to our community, and it’s devastating us in disproportionate numbers.
King: Do you find, Tyler, you’re afraid of it?
Perry: Look… I’m not afraid of it as much as I am afraid for a lot of other people who have underlying conditions, who I’m hoping that we, as black people, really, really get at. I know it’s affecting everybody. But when you have a third of the deaths being African Americans, I want us to really focus on what that means.
King: It really does illustrate the point… that this coronavirus is very devastating to the black community.
Perry: Yeah, because I’m hoping that we as black people really start to take this thing seriously… and listen, I get it, I’ve been on both sides of this wealth thing. I’ve been extremely poor and I’ve managed to do well. So I understand what it’s like to be there and not have the healthcare that you need, not be able to take care of yourself, only go to the doctor if something’s wrong. But to be socially distant doesn’t cost you anything.
King: And I like what you said in your post, Tyler, you said, “Stay home,” in caps and an exclamation point… and I don’t think we can stress that enough.
Perry: Yeah, and… that doesn’t mean, okay, we’re gonna have a barbecue with all the family. Socially distanced is locking down in your house with the members of your household and staying away from other people.
King: The other thing, Tyler, you did the other day online on your page, on your social-the whole- “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” challenge… How did you pick that song? There were many you could’ve chosen.
Perry: I wanted a really simple song that everybody knows. And to see it take off like that, and have all of these people singing… to me it was like a little prayer going around the world, just letting everybody know we’re okay. It’s all gonna be okay.