Jussie Smollett of the TV show “Empire” has recently been in the media and it’s not a pretty story.
The short of it: One night in Chicago he claimed that he was the victim of a hate crime. He said assailants poured bleach on him, roughed him up and hung a rope around his neck all the time yelling racism and homophobic slurs. The Chicago police questioned two men, who are brothers, as possible suspects in the incident. Turns out the men knew Smollett and have worked on “Empire.”
The men later said that Smollett paid them to create the hate crime. At present, we don’t know the full story or whether a hate crime actually occurred or if Smollett orchestrated this incident. But, many are already criticizing the actor for doing this during Black History Month.
Being black and gay and open about it is brave, and comes with it much hate. So, no matter what the outcome of this incident, Smollett has already suffered, and possible been broken by that hate. But, either way, it is heinous — the hate crime or the invention of a hate crime. And, while we don’t know yet which is true, we need to realize that one person is not an entire group of people, whether black or LGBT.
There are other people of color who we can celebrate this Black History Month. How about Bayard Rustin, chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington; Janet Mock, activist, author and most recently writer for the TV show “Pose;” Alice Walker, author, poet, and advocate; E. Denise Simmons, former mayor of Cambridge, Mass., who during her 2008-2009 term was the first openly lesbian African-American mayor in the United States; Angela Davis, political advocate, scholar, and author; and James Baldwin, author and activist. There are many, many more, but let me end with my sister from Gay Liberation Front, Marsha P. Johnson, who helped create the first trans organization in the nation Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries … STAR!
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.