Jussie Smollett is a Black, out gay actor best known for his role as Jamal Lyon on Empire. He was brutally attacked early yesterday morning in Chicago. According to TMZ, his two white attackers screamed “This is MAGA country” while they beat him, poured “an unknown substance” on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck. The FBI has reportedly taken over the investigation that the Chicago PD is calling a “possible hate crime.” To me, the description sounds like a DEFINITE hate crime — a modern-day lynching. It’s a terrifying reality that hate crimes in the U.S. have risen since the election of Donald Trump, MAGA-hat-wearer-in-chief, and that here in Canada, hate crimes have risen by nearly 50 per cent, according to a report last year.
If those stats make you mad, good. If those stats make you feel helpless and sad for the people who walk through the world scared to just exist, they should. If you are one of those people, your life matters. You deserve better. If all we do is tweet about how mad we are, and cry for Smollett's suffering instead of naming the systemic homophobia and racism that allows this kind of hate to persist, there will be no justice. Smollett was targeted not just because he is Black or gay, but because he is both. Being both Black and part of the LGBTQ+ community is radical, even in 2019 when it shouldn’t be. Just walking down the street can be a dangerous act of defiance against hatred and bigotry. Safety is a luxury not afforded to Black LGBTQ+ people, even the high-profile ones.
As GQ put it, “Jussie Smollett is a successful actor on a popular television series, one of the most famous Black and gay men in America, and even he is not safe.” Think of the countless victims of hate crimes in North America who are not famous. If you look up #JusticeForJussie on Twitter, you’ll find beautiful messages sending love and prayers to the Empire star, but what he needs, and what his community needs, is real, tangible support. As long as the president of the most powerful country in the world continues to embolden homophobic racists, danger is imminent and the Black LGBTQ+ community needs more action than prayers and hashtags. The question I've been asking myself all day is "how can I help?" It may seem like a small solution to a larger systemic problem, but for now, we can donate, volunteer, and let this community know that it is not alone in its fight.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of the organizations and resources for Black LGBTQ+ youth and adults across Canada, but I may have missed some. Please reach out (@KathleenNB on Twitter) if there are networks you think should be included. Unfortunately, it takes a horrific event like this for the world to wake up to the realities facing Black gay, trans, and otherwise identifying people every day. Let’s fight for justice for Jussie, and for all the victims just like him.