Tyler Perry has made a passionate plea to the African American community to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously after his hairstylist died from the coronavirus.
The actor and director posted a photo of himself with hairstylist Charles Gregory on Instagram Wednesday night begging people to practice social distancing to stop the spread of the illness.
"The man was warm, loving and hilarious,'' he wrote about Gregory. "We all loved to see him coming and hear his laughter. Charles lost his battle with COVID-19 today. It saddens me to think of him dying this way."
Severe cases of COVID-19 are disproportionately affecting African Americans, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The analysis used data from 1,482 coronavirus patients at hospitals across 14 states and found that African Americans made up a third of the cases despite comprising just 18% of the population in those states.
"While everyone can contract this virus it is black people who are dying from it in much larger numbers," Perry wrote. "This thing is real, black people. I heard a black person say, 'Black people don’t get it.' That is a lie! You can get it, and you will get it if we don’t do what we're being told to do."
Perry, 50, also mentioned instances of those dying who were not in the over-60 demographic that has been primarily affected by coronavirus.
"And I love us all too much to watch us die on the vine because we are the last to know and we are not taking this pandemic seriously,'' he wrote. "Black people, we are at a disproportionately higher risk of dying from this virus. Please, please, please, I beg you to take this seriously.
"You have to socially distance yourself. That means stop hanging out, stop congregating, stop doing anything that will put not only your life in danger but also the lives of so many others. STAY HOME!! Socially distance yourself and stay alive! If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for someone you love, and for those who love you."
Perry has also opened his wallet to help others in need with millions of people unemployed across the country due to the pandemic.
He paid for customers' groceries on Wednesday at 29 Winn-Dixie locations in the city of his birth, New Orleans, during shopping hours for seniors and high-risk individuals. He also picked up the tab at 44 Kroger stores in his hometown of Atlanta.
Just days earlier, Perry gave out $21,000 in tips to out-of-work servers at an Atlanta restaurant, according to local reports.
They are the latest acts of generosity for Perry, who paid off all the items that 1,500 customers had on layaway at a pair of Atlanta-area Walmarts as a Christmas surprise in 2018.