Media mogul Tyler Perry was present on MLK Day in Miami, Fla., to honor 58 young men,ages 9-19,graduating from the5000 Role Models of Excellence Project.Perry, who experienced a tumultuous, abusive childhood, was so moved he took out his checkbook while on stage to make a donation to the same organization that also helped fallen soldierSgt. La David Johnson flourish.
“I looked at your faces coming down the aisle and I got emotional,” he said to an audience ofmore than 2,000 atthe organization’s25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Scholarship Breakfast.
“When I saw your faces I thought, I gotta get in on this because when you look at the news, you don’t see this story. I’m so proud of you guys.”
He thankedRep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) for inviting him and for “insisting that I be here and not taking no for an answer,” he joked.
“If she’s determined to get something done, it’s gonna get done,” he said. “These are the kind of people we need in Washington, D.C.”
When Perry sent Wilson flowers following her high-profile disagreement with President Donald Trump after the death of Johnson in October, she encouraged him to speak at the event, according tothe Miami Herald.
Perry said that hopefully the 5000 Role Models of Excellence “will keep going after we’re long gone” and “end up being 500,000 or 5 million because it starts from one person coming together to say, ‘We can do this. Let me inspire you. Let me encourage you.’ I’ve tried to live my life that way.”
Wilson, a former teacher, principal, Miami-Dade School Board member and state legislator, founded the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project in 1993. The in-school dropout prevention and mentoring program is committed to guiding minority boys along a chartered path to manhood and sending them to college. It has awarded 15,000 scholarships in 25 years.
Johnson,25, one of the four American soldiers killed on Oct. 4 in an ambush in Niger, was a graduate of the program.Wilson was in the car with Johnson’s pregnant wife, Myeshia, when she received a phone call from Trump that made her “upset and cry even more.”
“That’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier,” Myeshia Johnson said.
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project awarded Johnson’s widow a scholarship trust on Jan. 2 on what would have been Sgt. Johnson’s 26th birthday.The organization crowdfunded $800,000to pay for the education of the Johnson children.
On Monday, each one of the young men were presented with a 5000 Role Models of Excellence medal by their mentors.
“[Wilson] is doing so many wonderful things for these amazing kids who deserve all this excitement and all the best,” Perry said.
His rise to success from growing up in poverty in New Orleans is also inspirational. As a child, Perry said that for years he wasphysically abusedby his father and experienced severe sexual abuse at the hands of several adults. He would grow up to become the mastermind behind 17 feature films, 20 stage plays, seven television shows, and a New York Times bestselling book.
“I had a praying mother who taught me right from wrong,” Perry told the audience on Monday.
His latest book, “Higher is Waiting,” published in November, is a collection of spiritual lessons.
Wilson tweeted the following on Monday:
Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) January 16, 2018
5000 Role Models posted a video of Perry walking through a receiving line of the 58 students.
5000 Role Models (@5000RoleModels) January 15, 2018