First he became Madea, the gun-touting granny ready to even any score. Then he became the “Atlanta Angel,” paying for the groceries of seniors at 70 supermarkets during the Covid crisis.
Tyler Perry — the flamboyant actor, writer, producer who’s earned hundreds of millions in Hollywood –has footed the bill during senior shopping hour at 44 Kroger stores in Atlanta and 28 Winn-Dixie stores in Louisiana, as reported by Huffington Post.
The elderly got receipts signed by the “Atlanta Angel.”
Because Covid panic-buying has left senior citizens trampled, jostled, sidelined and shortage-stuck, some national chains are offering special hours exclusively for the elderly. Perry, who was born and raised in Louisiana but now lives in Atlanta, took advantage to underwrite their grocery bills.
Senior citizens also are more vulnerable to the lung-impacting virus.
“We would like to join our customers in thanking Mr. Perry for his kindness and generosity during this unprecedented pandemic,” says Felix Turner, Kroger’s Atlanta manager of corporate affairs. “Our customers were filled with joy and gratitude.”
Perry became a Christian out of a childhood of abuse. He was physically and sexually abused inside and outside his home many times, according to BeliefNet.
“I remember (my dad) cornering me in a room and hitting me with this vacuum cleaner cord. He would just not stop,” Perry says. “There are all these welts on me, the flesh that’s coming from my bone, and I had to wait for him to go to sleep. When he fell asleep, I ran to my aunt’s house, and she was mortified when she saw it.”
Another time when he couldn’t get the bolts off the car tire because they were rusted, his father beat him severely.
“All I remember is him tackling me, and I remember holding onto a chain-link fence so tight, my hands are bloody and he’s hitting me.”
While his Dad was vicious, his mother was a shining light.
“My mother was truly my saving grace, because she would take me to church with her,” he says. “I would see my mother smiling in the choir, and I wanted to know this God that made her so happy. If I had not had that faith in my life, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
When he decided to put his faith in God, he also needed to learn to forgive.
“I am a Christian, I am a believer, and I know had I not been a person of faith, I couldn’t be here in this place, and I wouldn’t be walking the path I’m on now,” Perry says. “And I think the greater good of the path I’m on now is to teach people to learn to forgive and move on, in a way that’s done through the healing power of humor.”
He wanted to break into Hollywood and from 1992 to 1998 he tried to stage a show entitled “I Know I’ve Been Changed.” But the morality play about forgiveness in dysfunctional families flopped continuously until it was re-shaped in Atlanta and had a successful run that ignited his career.
His big breakthrough came with “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” which saw the creation of the salty Madea personality played by Perry himself. Madea is the gun-brandishing elderly lady who takes justice into her own mean hands. She’s not a Christian character but is a vehicle of humor to introduce Christian themes.
Madea, who has reappeared in movie after movie, is something of an alter-ego for Perry because she doesn’t forgive: “Well when you gettin’ got and somebody done got you and you go get them, when you get ’em, everybody’s gon’ get got,” she told Dr. Phil.
“The heart of who I am as a person and as a man is forgiveness,” he says. “I forgave my father for a lot of things that were done when I was child.
“If you don’t truly forgive, you hold yourself back. You know the Bible says you need to forgive so that the Father can forgive you, which is totally what I believe.
“Now we have a very good relationship because I know I’ve forgiven him. I can sit in the room with him and talk and laugh and have a good time because there is nothing there. There is nothing I’m harboring. The reason I was able to do that was I realized the effect that it had on me.”
Perry has a son (out of wedlock) who helps him complete the cycle of forgiveness, he says. Born in 2014, Aman was unplanned. Because of the failings of his own father, Perry feared becoming a dad.
“I didn’t think I was going to have any kid. All of my fears are based around my son,” Perry says in Light Workers. “I want to be there to protect him in every move, in every turn.”
Wealthy Gorilla website estimates Perry’s worth at $600 million. He gives generously back to the community. He pays for poor children to go to Disney World and summer swim camps. His latest charity rampage included a $500 tip for every laid-off server at Houston’s restaurant in Atlanta, a tab that came to $21,000.
Perry has not said a word about his splurge on the seniors at groceries stores other than to call himself the “Atlanta Angel.”
Michael Ashcraft teaches journalism at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.