Actor and singer Jussie Smollett told a packed crowd on Saturday that he won't let his attackers win, during an emotional concert that served as his first public appearance since being brutally beaten last week.
"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," he said to cheers from the audience at the The Troubadour in West Hollywood, Calif.
Smollett, who appears in the popular show "Empire," still had a swollen knot on his face during the show, after two men allegedly beat him, poured what appeared to be bleach on him and draped a noose around his neck while using racist and homophobic slurs in Chicago on Tuesday.
Smollett's siblings embraced him as he stood on stage before beginning the concert, which was attended by about 400 people, including Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
After thanking everyone for their support, Smollett also took the time to address some misconceptions and the "hateful rhetoric" surrounding his attack. Some attempted to poke holes in Smollett's story by saying that he changed his original story, after he said in a follow-up interview with police that the two masked men who beat him shouted "MAGA Country" during the attack.
"I don't even care to name any names," he said. "The hateful rhetoric that gets passed around, it has to stop. But guess what, it stops with the people that believe in love."
He released a statement earlier this week defending himself from those attempting to portray him as a liar. "I am working with authorities and have been 100 percent factual and consistent on every level," he said. "Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served."
He also clarified while on stage on Saturday that his ribs were bruised during the attack but not cracked, and that he had been medically cleared to perform. The concert was planned well before the incident, and family and friends reportedly urged him to postpone it for his own health and safety. Smollett, however, said he felt compelled to use the concert as a chance to spread a positive message.
"I had to be here tonight, y'all. I couldn't let those motherf--kers win," he said to cheers in the audience. "I will always stand for love. I will only stand for love."
He added that he refused to take the attack lying down.
"Above all, I fought the f--k back," he said before ending the show.
A surveillance video was released showing two people of interest walking along a snow-covered street near where the beating took place. Chicago Police said that they are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
The Associated Press contributed to this reporting of this story.