BAI President and CEO Statement about Attack on Board Member Jussie Smollett
Empire star attacked in what is being investigated as a hate crime
LOS ANGELES—“Jussie is one of our country’s leading activists who has fought in the face of injustice and stood up for those disenfranchised because of the color of their skin or who they love. We live in a climate where it is increasingly acceptable to partake in violent attacks on Black bodies and the LGBTQ community. We cannot ignore the toxic mixture of violence that specifically affects people at the intersection of these identities. All of this is driven by hate and intolerance and fuels stigma that smothers our communities. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jussie and his family during this time” says Raniyah Copeland, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI). Smollett has been a volunteer with BAI since his teenage years and has served on the Board of Directors since 2015, recently serving as the event chair for BAI’s annual Heroes in The Struggle gala.
Copeland added, “We can’t separate this attack from the deaths of Black gay men in West Hollywood, or the racism, homophobia, and transphobia that many in our community face daily. We should all be outraged and moved to action any time this hate rears its head, in any form.”
BAI’s board chair, Grazell R. Howard, says, “Smollett is a courageous activist in all facets of his life. His constant striving to use his celebrity to eradicate stigma, HIV, and give voice to the underrepresented is his trademark. He is an engaged member of the Board of Directors of the Black AIDS Institute. Our prayers and compassion are with Jussie and his family. We stand in solidarity with Jussie and give notice to all hate mongers; the constant attempt to traumatize our communities will not succeed. Jussie will not be deterred. Courageous people will continue to advocate for good. America is at her fork in the road and we must choose humanity versus hate.”
Larry R. Hygh, Jr., Ed.D.
Senior Communications Manager