Why Billy Porter Wants People to Take Their Activism Offline & Get 'In the Streets'

Billy Porter
Shavonne Wong

Billy Porter

Billy Porter is tired of people acting shocked about violence against black people in America. "This is a country that was built on the backs of my ancestors who were stolen from their land to come over here and be forced into slavery," he says. "And the people who wrote the constitution that y'all are so keen on owned slaves while they were writing it. Why are any of you surprised?" 

That's the message Billy Porter starts with on the latest episode of Billboard's Pridecastthe podcast from Billboard Pride where host and singer-songwriter Shea Diamond talks with the most influential LGBTQ names in music about how they got to where they are today, and what it means to be out in this industry.

Since he got his start in show business, Porter has been an outspoken activist for the LGBTQ community, from the AIDS crisis to today. But with the latest string of protests, the Pose star is concerned that not enough people are actively engaging in the act of protest and instead turning to social media as a place to protest.

While Porter thinks social media has its purpose in times like this, he says he wants to see the same kind of energy as in the protests for civil rights of the 1960s, or the anti-Vietnam protests of the '70s. "How do we take that and mold it with social media and reactivate?" he asks. "We were in the streets because that's the only place you could be. Now we have to figure out what's the combination of that. I don't have the answer, but I'm throwing that question out to the world."

One option for bringing about that kind of activism, Porter points out, is providing better representation in television, music and movies. "Everybody knows the first way into change is through the arts," he says. "They know it, which is why we're always the first to go. The arts is always the first to be cut. It's always the first to be ridiculed, you know, because we think for ourselves and that's what we teach."

That's why Porter is proud to be a part of a show that is doing just that for the transgender community. When Porter was cast in Pose, he says he knew what the show "had the potential to be," and has since been glad to see his expectations met. "I'm just so grateful I lived long enough to see the day where my story and my community's actual story is being told in the mainstream," he says. "And being told by the people who, the community who are living it or have lived it."

Check out Porter's full conversation with Shea Diamond on Billboard's Pridecast below:

Pride 2020 isn't canceled. Join Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter's Pride Summit & Pride Prom on Saturday (June 13) starting at 12:30 p.m. ET for performances, queer conversation, drag, artist cameos, glam sessions, DJs, dancing and more.

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