September 9, 2017
This article originally appeared on Forbes.
When you hear the name Jussie Smollett, you immediately think of Jamal Lyon, the character he plays on the hit show Empire, who instantly became a cultural icon as he portrayed an openly, black gay man in a way that has never been seen before on television. Because unlike most of the black, gay characters you saw on TV used in stereotypical ways or for mere comic relief, Jamal has depth, a strong moral compass, confidence and illustrates a strong sense of self that drives him forward as an artist and as a business man.
Smollett, 35, who is also openly gay, has all those traits as well. More importantly, he is an activist who has a genuine desire to use his music and platform to change the world, tackling social issues that some no longer want to talk about. So he decided to join forces with his longtime mentor and fellow activist Phil Wilson and the Black AIDS Institute to start a crusade against a disease that has plagued the black gay community for ages: HIV/AIDs.