Less than a week after being attacked in Chicago in what’s now being investigated as a hate crime, Jussie Smollett is back on stage. The Empire actor and singer proceeded with a scheduled show at the Troubadour, in Los Angeles, California, where he delivered an impassioned conclusion to his set, clarifying some of the reports that circulated about the attack itself—he was not hospitalized, but did see a doctor; his ribs are bruised, not broken—and urging the audience to “be as black, be as brown, be as gay as the f–k you want to be,” according to a tweet by Entertainment Weekly’s Tim Stack.
Smollett released his album, Sum of My Music, in March of last year, and the Troubadour show was scheduled before last week’s attack; in an introduction to the show, according to Vulture, Smollett’s brother Jake said he had urged Jussie not to proceed with the show. “As his big brother, I wanted Jussie to sit this one out,” he said. “But after much debating, much arguing, and many tears, my family and I realized tonight is an important part of Jussie’s healing. You see, he has been a fighter since he was a baby.” (Smollett, per Vulture’s account of the set, was still visibly bruised from the attack; though he proceeded with the show itself, a planned meet-and-greet was canceled.) Later, towards the end of his set, Smollett said something similar: “Above all, I fought the f–k back.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Empire creator Lee Daniels, Smollett’s sister Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and actor Wilson Cruz were among the show’s attendees, again per Vulture. Before he launched into the two-hour-long show, Smollett explained his own reasoning for proceeding with the show. “I couldn’t let those motherf–kers ruin it,” he said, echoing the statement he issued to Essence earlier in the week that “there is still a responsibility to lead with love.” “I will always stand for love,” he said; “I will never stand for anything else.”