NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Local Nashville gay-rights advocates are reacting to the latest developments of Empire actor Jussie's Smollett's alleged hate crime case.
On Thursday, Chicago police released the mugshot of Smollett hours after he turned himself in on charges that he filed a false report. Police said the actor told them he staged the homophobic and racist attack because he was, "dissatisfied with his salary.” A judge has set a $100,000 bond for Smollett.
Brian Marshall, 33, founded the organization MashUp Nashville which addresses health disparities and inequalities for men of color and trans-women of color. Marshall said Smollett's alleged attack negatively affects actual hate crime victims.
"Jussie should definitely apologize to the community but I don't know if his apology would do much. What I would hope is that people don't allow this situation to be a distraction from the fact that these things happen on a regular basis and if someone comes forward and says they're a victim that we should believe them and let the courts handle the other part of it," Marshall said.
Derrius Talley, 22, is a freshman at American Baptist College. He said during his Social Justice class several students and his professor questioned why the actor would want to do this in the first place.
"Growing up, I was picked on for my sexuality and I being who I was I didn't come out until my freshman year in high school. It's scary knowing that you can go anywhere, you never know what will happen just for being who you are and it's not right," Talley said.
Marshall said Smollett's case initially received mixed reaction from Nashville's black, gay community and he does not want actual hate crime victims to be deterred to speak up.
"They're scared to come out and tell their stories and that's why this is so disappointing because now, it's going put more fear into these young people to let people know the things that are happening behind closed doors and their families and the things that are happening in the streets," he said.
On Saturday MashUp Nashville will host a free panel discussion at Meharry Medical College's LRC Building from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to address several stigmas within Nashville involving youth homelessness, trans-equality, mental health. Lawayne Childrey will be the keynote speaker.
You can learn more about MashUp Nashville here.