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Tyler Perry Studios

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Tyler Perry talked about the “God-given” opportunity to open his own studios: “What it means is that I get an opportunity to pass it on to people. I get to share it. I get to inspire people and encourage them. That is what it’s all about.”

Tyler kicked off the Friday reception by sharing the story of what inspired him to move to Atlanta in 1992. “I saw black people doing well for the first time in my life. I saw black doctors, lawyers and other professionals and thought, ‘This is the promised land. I can make it here!'” At the time Perry lived in a weekly hotel on Buford Highway. He also reflected on the influence of his mother and God in his life: “It was my mother who taught me about faith. No matter what hell was going on in the house, she taught me about faith and God,” he said. “Nobody is teaching kids enough about faith [today]. About how to pray your way through a situation rather than turning to drugs or some other alternative. If my mother hadn’t given me that, I don’t know where I would be.”

In a room of about 800 guests, Perry highlighted one special person in attendance who influenced him: Winfrey. “In 2005, Oprah invited me to her Legends Ball,” he revealed. “I saw Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Tom Cruise and Sidney Poitier, and I said, ‘What am I doing here?’ I didn’t know I said it out loud, but Yolanda Adams was sitting next to me and she said, ‘You belong here.’ By the end of the party I said, ‘I’m going to dream bigger.’ It was something about being in Oprah’s house, being in her presence, seeing what a black person had accomplished — it really, really spoke to me.”

He told his audience of the impact he’d like to make at the studios’ grand opening. “If I can get you to leave this weekend feeling like I did that day, we’re going to change some major things in this world. Sometimes your dreams are on life support. You don’t know if you’ll make it, but being exposed to something bigger can give your dreams the life it needs,” he added.

“If I can build studios on this land that was once a confederate army base….” The crowd burst into applause, as Perry added, “We all get to stand here equally — black, white, whatever — this is the American dream.”

All guests were then given a tour of the 330-acre studio and each of the 12 soundstages, all named after iconic African American legends in the industry: Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Diahann Carroll.

Beyond the lights, cameras and stages, the location of the studios holds enormous personal significance for Perry.

The post was founded in 1885 and named for Maj. Gen. James McPherson, the highest-ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War. But during the Civil War, the land was used by Confederate soldiers as a training ground in a war fought over the enslavement of black people.

At a BET awards ceremony this year, Perry got emotional recounting the history of Fort McPherson.

Film Creator Ava Duvernay, posted these fun facts on her instagram page:  A black man owns a studio lot larger and more modern than any studio lot in Hollywood. Fun Fact: The studio lots of Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Fox and Sony could fit inside Tyler Perry’s studio lot at the same time – and there would still be 60 acres to spare.