On Saturday night, around 800 guests made the trek to Atlanta, Georgia to celebrate the opening of Tyler Perry Studios, the first-ever fully black-owned studio lot. There were so many icons in attendance that even Beyoncé was starstruck: "I could feel our ancestors’ presence. Surrounded by my heroes, I watched Denzel, Queen Oprah, Spike, Whoopi, Sir Poitier, Will, Halle, Dame Cicely and our angels John Singleton and Diahann Carroll honored," she wrote on Instagram. "Generations of blood, sweat and tears, success, excellence and brilliance. It makes me so proud, so full, I could not stop crying."
The names that Beyoncé mentioned were just the tip of the iceberg; Taraji P. Henson, Patti LaBelle, Tiffany Haddish, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Kaepernick, Gayle King, Gabourey Sidibe, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Stacey Abrams, John Lewis, and Beyoncé's fellow Destiny's Child alums Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland were just some of those who joined her and "Queen Oprah" in celebrating Perry's achievement. Many, like Beyoncé, took a moment to reflect on the evening's importance, too: "Tonight is history. Tonight is not just entertainment and flamboyancy, it's not just an excuse to get dressed up. It's an excuse to celebrate a historic moment, which is a black artist taking control of their artistic life and the vision that god has for their life," Viola Davis told the Hollywood Reporter. "What's happened with us historically is we're waiting for people to get us. We're waiting for people to throw us a crumb. That's not what Tyler Perry has done. I want to be able to look back on this and say ‘I was there.'"
On Sunday, many echoed Davis's sentiments on Instagram: Halle Berry described the evening as "surreal," and Rowland expressed her gratitude "to have witnessed Black Excellence, History, and Greatness." Meanwhile, Ava DuVernay doubled down on why the evening—and, of course, the opening of the studio, which Perry pulled off without partners or corporate backing—was so historic: "A black man owns a studio lot larger and more modern than any studio lot in Hollywood. Fun Fact: The studio lots of Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Fox and Sony could fit inside Tyler Perry’s studio lot at the same time—and there would still be 60 acres to spare," she wrote on Instagram. "Jaw dropping. And all on a former Confederate Army base. Our ancestors rejoice."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Perry began the reception by sharing about the significance of the lot's location, reminiscing on when he first moved to Atlanta in 1992: "I saw black people doing well for the first time in my life. I saw black doctors, lawyers and other professionals and thought, 'This is the promised land. I can make it here!,'" he recalled. "If I can build studios on this land that was once a confederate army base.... We all get to stand here equally—black, white, whatever—this is the American dream."