Jussie Smollett was blunt, emotional, and defiantly determined Saturday night at a Southern California concert some urged him not to play, telling the crowd before singing a note that he had to go on with the show because he couldn't let his attackers win. "The most important thing I can say is 'thank you so much, and I'm OK,'" said the Empire actor and R&B singer from the stage at the Troubadour in West Hollywood in what the AP reports was his first public appearance since he reported to police in Chicago on Tuesday that two masked men had assaulted him and put a rope around his neck while using homophobic and racial slurs. "I'm not fully healed yet," said Smollett, who is black and openly gay, "but I'm going to be, and I'm gonna stand strong with y'all."
The concert had been planned long before the incident, and his family members and others had urged him to postpone it. But Smollett said he couldn't do that. "I had to be here tonight, y'all. I couldn't let those (expletive) win," he said to screams and cheers from the packed room of about 400 people. Smollett kept the tone mostly celebratory through his hour-long set before addressing the attack head-on toward the end of his performance, when he told the crowd he wanted to clarify a few things. He said he was bruised but his ribs were not cracked. He went straight to the doctor but was not hospitalized, and physicians in both Chicago and Los Angeles cleared him to play but told him to be careful. "And above all, I fought the (expletive) back," he said to cheers. Then he paused and said, emphatically but with a laugh, "I'm the gay Tupac."
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