Georgia became home to what is touted to be the nation’s first significant studio owned by a black man on Oct. 5.
Dozens of well known African American celebrities joined actor Tyler Perry in celebrating the official opening of Tyler Perry Studios at Fort McPherson, 5 miles southwest of downtown Atlanta.
The grand opening attracted hundreds of A-list personalities to the site formerly occupied by a Confederate Army base, which was extensively used during the American Civil War between the years 1861 and 1865.
Essence revealed some of the big names included singers Jay Z, Beyoncé, Patti LaBelle, and Jill Scott as well as actresses Whoopi Goldberg, Cecily Tyson, Taraji Henson, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Halle Berry.
Film directors Spike Lee and Ava DuVernay were joined by Rep. John Lewis (D–Ga.), former Rep. Stacey Abrams (D–Ga.), and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. Bernice King.
Perry explained the reason he chose the site was because it was the “poorest black neighborhood in Atlanta” when he was growing up, and he wanted his 12 sound stages for movie productions to inspire black children to reach for the stars.
“The kids can see that a Black man did that, and they can too,” he said, according to Essence.
One of the sound stages at the studio is being dedicated to late actress Diahann Carroll whose determination inspired Perry to persevere.
“Thank you, Ms. Carroll, for how you showed the world that black people are special, strong, beautiful, and powerful,” Perry said on Facebook. “I know you will live on in our hearts, but I’m so glad to know that your name will live on at stage five at Tyler Perry Studios. Thank you for letting me honor you and thank you for lending your legend to my studio to inspire generations to come.”
Perry purchased the 330-acre lot in 2015 after it had been abandoned for years.
“[There was] 10-foot tall grass, snakes, coyotes, etc. but where others saw dilapidation, I saw hope, I saw promise,” he said on Facebook. “Now, every day I drive in and see thousands of people working there; working in my dream to build their own. To think that all of my hard work and a lot of God’s grace have met me at the door of all that I dreamed humbles me to tears. I’m so full with gratitude every day.”
He revealed the new hope he felt was also for himself after having suffered a “miserable” first 28 years of his life.
“I was suicidal, I was so tired of living my life in pieces when all I wanted to do was live my life in peace,” he said. “I want to challenge all the dreamers reading this, I want to challenge you to keep pressing. Get there, get it done, I know you can. No matter your age, no matter your circumstances, you, too, can make it. When you pray, believe.”