Writer-actor-producer Tyler Perry donated $1 million to the NAACP this week, the largest gift the venerable civil rights organization has received from an entertainer in its 100-year history.
“I feel so honored and blessed to be in a position where I can help the NAACP,” said Perry, who has earned millions of dollars from his movies, stage productions, and television programs. “Had it not been for the perseverance and vision of the thousands who came before me in the 100 years of this legendary organization, I would not be in the position I am in today. I continue to be thankful for the tireless work of the NAACP, and I am proud to be able to help in their mission to fight for equality for all people and to work towards the elimination of discrimination against race.”
Perry’s donation, which will be distributed over the next four years, was bestowed to commemorate the NAACP’s centennial anniversary. In addition to giving money, Perry purchased several NAACP-commissioned lithographs by artists Jacob Lawrence, Jonathan Green, Elizabeth Callett and Sam Gilliam.
NAACP officials were thrilled with Perry’s generosity and impressed by his social awareness. They said the money will be used to support the organization’s advocacy programs on criminal justice, economic equality and health care.
Perry’s gift to the NAACP marks the second time this year that he’s publicly waded into the political-social arena.
In July, after seeing television reports about black and Latino summer campers who were kicked out of a private, mostly-white, suburban Philadelphia swim club, Perry dipped into his own pocket to send the disheartened children on a three-day trip to Orlando’s Walt Disney World in August.
“Tyler Perry exemplifies an unyielding commitment to uplifting and bringing hope to the disenfranchised and those less fortunate,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a written statement. “Both in his films and life, he reflects an impressive ethos of caring and conscientiousness. We are deeply grateful for his support.”
Perry’s gift comes at a time when he’s seemingly popping up everywhere. He’s a co-executive producer with Oprah Winfrey on the movie “Precious,” which is generating Oscar buzz. Perry’s film adaptation of his play, “I Can Do Bad All by Myself,” came out earlier this year. He has a small on-screen role this year’s “Star Trek” movie, adding him to the small list of Billy Dee Williams, Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes and Charles Dutton and other black actors who’ve been cast in science fiction films. Perry’s handiwork is also seen on television on TBS’s “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns” and “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.”
In September, Lionsgate films announced that Perry is slated to write, direct and produce a film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 acclaimed play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow in Enuf.” It will be Perry’s first film based on material he hasn’t written.
Black celebrities giving money to charity or to political causes isn’t new. Winfrey opened a $40 million leadership academy for disadvantaged girls in South Africa in 2007. Actor-comedian Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, donated an eye-popping $20 million to Atlanta’s Spelman College in 1987.
But NAACP officials said that no celebrity has given the organization a single gift as large as Perry’s.
“This is a paradigm-shifting moment in black philanthropy,” said Maxim Thorne, the NAACP’s senior vice president. “Here is a civil rights organization that is receiving a donation that is usually targeted only at educational or cultural institutions.”