“And as I was hearing this story,” Perry went on, “I became so embarrassed. Here I was, a person who prides myself on celebrating our heritage, our culture—and I didn’t even recognize the value in my grandmother’s quilt. I dismissed her work and her story because it didn’t look like what I thought it should. Now, whether we know it or not, we are all sewing our own quilts—with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experiences and our memories. Like in my own quilt, one of my memories from when I was about 10 years old, I remember my father standing at the door and I was wondering why he stood there so long. He was frustrated and he walked away and I asked my mother what was going on.
“She said he had worked all week and he was waiting for the man to come and pay him and he never did. They needed the money at the time…She was so frustrated, she said, ‘Don’t you ever stand by a door waiting for white folks to do nothing for you.’ My mother wasn’t a racist. But in her quilt, she couldn’t imagine a world where her son was not waiting by the door for someone. In her quilt, she couldn’t imagine me actually building my own door and holding that door open for thousands of people. In my mother’s quilt, she couldn’t imagine me owning land that was once a confederate army base. Where confederate soldiers plotted and planned on how to keep Blacks enslaved.
“Now,” he said emphatically, “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. I stand here tonight to say thank you to all of the people who are celebrating and know the value of every patch, and every story, and every color that makes up this quilt that is our business. This quilt that is our lives. This quilt that is America. Because in my grandmother’s quilt, there were no patches that represented Black people on television. But in my quilt, her grandson is being celebrated by the Television Academy. I thank you for this. God bless you. Thank you.”