Billy Porter recalls coming of age during the AIDS crisis in emotional speech at Miami Beach Pride

Billy Porter delivered an emotional speech. (Getty)

Billy Porter recalled what it was like to come of age during the AIDS crisis in an emotional speech at Miami Beach Pride. 

The Pose star was presented with the keys to Miami Beach by city commissioner Alex Fernandez on 12 April. At the Pride event, Fernandez said the Grammy winner is “the key to the happiness and joy of so many”. In response to the gesture, the actor delivered a poignant speech about the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly during the height of the AIDS epidemic. 

Porter said: “I was 16 years old at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. We didn’t have the luxury to hide. We didn’t have the luxury to not be active. We had to go straight to the front lines to fight for our lives, and that’s exactly what we did. We came together as a community, we fought back, and we succeeded in. Yes, the world changed because we came together.”

He continued with his speech, saying: “We’re now in a position where we must come together again. We must fight the forces of evil that are trying to destroy us. The one thing that I do know, and the one message that I try to exude everywhere I go, is that the change has already happened. We don’t have any time for fear. Toni Morrison says, this is precisely the time when artists go to work. There’s no need for fear. There’s no room for silence. We speak, we write, we do language. This is how civilizations heal.”

“I’m an artist,” Porter added. “The only way I know how to do it is through my art. I am grateful that I can do it through my art. I am grateful that the people are receiving that, that you are receiving what it is that I’m trying to do. (…) Coming from the civil rights movement, you know, there’s a song called ‘A Change Is Gonna Come.’ I love that song, but the change came, and the change went. What are we gonna do now?”

“It’s time for all of us to come together and figure out what ‘going high’ looks like in this new world order. It is not 1963. We cannot use the same tactics. I am not a politician, so I don’t know what the answer is. But it’s not what we’re doing now. It’s time to re-engage. It’s time to pay attention again. It’s time to get in these streets again. This is not a parade, it’s a march. That’s what it was when we started. This march [is] political,” he concluded.