Empire star Jussie Smollett had more than a performance in mind when he took the stage at Sunday’s BET Awards.
Joined by co-stars Yazz and Serayah, Smollett performed a medley of songs from the hit show, including “No Apologies,” “Drip Drop” and “You’re So Beautiful.” But it was his speech in the middle of the final song that really got fans talking.
Openly gay Smollett used the stage at the Awards to touch on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of nationwide marriage equality, as well as racially motivated shootings at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“We live in a nation where freedom is what we represent, yet we are still fighting every day for the basic freedoms of all of our people,” he said. “Let the Supreme Court ruling be proof of how far we have come. Let the deaths of sisters and brothers be proof of how far we have to go. No one is free until we are all free.”
— K I N G 👑✨ (@dopecentral_) June 29, 2015
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At the end of his performance, he added three more words: “Stand for love.”
Fans’ social media reactions to the speech were largely positive.
— Lala💮 (@lalac11) June 29, 2015
— nique06 (@shanique06) June 29, 2015
@JussieSmollett's speech was everything.
— Victoria L. Johnson (@missoldskool) June 29, 2015
Smollett has spoken about his sexuality in the past, telling Essence magazine that he wants to be an inspiration for others to live true to themselves.
“If I can help someone else feel less alone, no matter what they’re going through, I’m happy to have that opportunity,” he told the magazine in May.
Watch the BET Awards performance: