“Empire” star Jussie Smollett attacked in Chicago


In this May 20, 2016 file photo, actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the “Empire” FYC Event in Los Angeles. Smollett, who alleges he was the victim of a brutal racial and homophobic attack, is a former child star who grew up to become a champion of LGBT rights and one of the few actors to play a black gay character on primetime TV. His breakthrough came aboard the hip-hop drama “Empire,” playing Jamal Lyon, a talented R&B singer struggling to earn his father’s approval and find his place in his dad’s music empire. It became one of the biggest network shows to star a gay black character. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Jussie Smollett, better known as Jamal Lyon from the hit TV show “Empire,” was attacked in the middle of the night on Tuesday, Jan. 29, in Chicago. As he was walking back from Subway around 1 a.m., two unknown men wearing masks began to attack the actor/singer. They yelled homophobic and racial slurs as they repeatedly hit him. The two offenders then continued to pour an unknown chemical liquid on Smollett and tied a noose around his neck, which officers saw when they arrived to his apartment at 2:40 a.m. Despite people believing that he had broken ribs, Smollett confirmed at a performance in West Hollywood on Saturday that they were only bruised and that he had been cleared by both his doctors. Some describe the attack on Smollett as a hate crime, with his co-star Taraji P. Henson telling him, “Hate will not win!” Smollett told police that the aggressors were telling him, “This is MAGA country.”

One week earlier, on Jan. 22, a letter was received at Smollett’s place of work, Fox Studios. The back of the letter had “MAGA” written in the corner, while the inside contained an immediate death threat to Smollett. The letters were cut out of magazines, and then neatly organized to deliver the intended message. Next to the statement there was a stick figure with a fire weapon next to his head. Unfortunately, within the past five years and since the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States, hate crimes such as the one Jussie Smollett endured are not uncommon. In fact, according to the FBI there has been a 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes and a 37 percent increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes in 2017. Approximately 60 percent of individuals were targeted because of their race or ethnicity, 20 percent because of their religion, and 16 percent because of their sexuality. This is the devastating reality of living in today’s society.

Smollett and the “Empire” cast will now have armed security guards surrounding them while shooting in Chicago. This will ensure the safety of not only Smollett, but the rest of the cast as well.

Many celebrities and politicians have voiced their love and appreciation for Smollett. Viola Davis, Nancy Pelosi, Vivica A. Fox, Kamala Harris, John Legend and President Donald Trump are only a few of the people who have voiced their love, admiration and support for Smollett. Hopefully the Chicago Police Department will be able to identify the aggressors and bring justice to not only Jussie Smollett, but all people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+.

Jordana Castelli is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at jordana.castelli@uconn.edu.

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