After news broke Tuesday that Empire actor Jussie Smollett had been brutally assaulted in an alleged hate crime in Chicago, peers, costars, and fans from all corners took to social media to express their support and solidarity, as well as their condemnation of the attack. Now, Smollett has issued his first public statement since he was hospitalized following the attack, in an exclusive first published by Essence.
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett wrote, per Essence. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. Most importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”
“I am working with authorities and have been 100 percent factual and consistent on every level,” Smollett went on. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
According to a police statement released by the Chicago Police Department on Tuesday, Smollett was walking in Chicago when two men “approached him and gained his attention by yelling racial and homophobic slurs”—per TMZ, one said “This is MAGA country,” referencing the Trump campaign slogan, which Smollett later confirmed according to The Washington Post. The two men beat him, “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him, and tied a noose about his neck before they fled; Smollett then brought himself to Northwestern Hospital.
Yesterday, Smollett’s family issued a statement, which his sister, actor Jurnee Smollett-Bell, posted to her Instagram: “We want people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers, and our gender-nonconforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country. Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such. They will continue to occur until we hold each other accountable. Make no mistake, words matter. Hateful words lead to hateful actions.” The statement appeared a sharp rebuke to dulled-down descriptions of the attack as “racially charged”—as opposed to, quite simply, racist—in coverage of the attack in the hours and days following the initial report.
The Empire actor echoed his family’s sentiments in his own statement, adding, “As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers, and non–gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process.” Smollett has been an outspoken advocate for queer and gender-nonconforming young people as a spokesperson for the Trevor Project, as well as for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief, and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love,” Smollett said. “It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”