Though R. Kelly himself has continued to deny sexual assault allegations for decades, these disturbing assertions have been made available to the public and were addressed by celebrities like Dave Chappelle and Wendy Williams, as well as R&B fans alike.
These accusations have swirled and fizzled out throughout several years–that is until earlier this month.
To oversimplify, in 2002, a video surfaced that appeared to show R. Kelly having sex with a teenage girl and committing horrendous acts. Kelly was indicted by a Chicago grand jury on 21 counts of child pornography, but the trial was delayed. And in 2008, Kelly was found not guilty on all counts after the victim in the video refused to testify.
In 2017, more accusations surfaced that Kelly was forcing women into a sex cult and controlling their phones and contact with their families. Kelly has denied all of these allegations.
Most recently, a docu-series entitled ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ was released detailing the stories of a multitude of women, some of whom are minors, who have faced abuse from Kelly covering a time span from 1970 to today. Including over 50 interviewees, as well as his illicit marriage to then-15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah, this series is a six-part documentary that aired on Lifetime in which platform is given to the women whose sexual abuse allegations have been denied by Kelly and his associates in the past.
1.9 million viewers reveled in awe at the victims’ complex stories and took to Twitter to support the organization #MuteRKelly with the corresponding hashtag and shared their own takes at the repulsive information revealed in this series.
But with nearly 2 million viewers, and as celebrities use their voices and platforms in this American social climate adapted to a (lenient) no-tolerance policy, it is a wonder as to why R. Kelly was allowed to continue to produce music with representation from a national label with little to seemingly no consequences for this long period of time. Though he has now been dropped by Sony Music, Rolling Stone reports that in spite of this, he has gained both influence and money.
“I don’t know if anybody knows exactly what ‘dropping R. Kelly’ means. Presumably, Sony and RCA will continue to distribute his back catalog and the royalties will continue to flow as they were,” Lisa Alter, a music attorney who specializes in copyright law, reports to Rolling Stone.
Alter also noted that the label may have been contractually obligated to release R. Kelly’s potential future material, and if they didn’t want to allow this to occur, they may have made a financial settlement with Kelly which could have resulted in extra money for the figurehead himself.
But, with accusations stemming from over 40 years ago, why weren’t his countless victims allowed any sort of justice in lieu of receiving money on the side, not in a federal or local court of any kind, to settle these cases? Although some of these women decided to take this money instead of bringing media attention to it that would only vilify them, the one thing that most of these victims have in common is their race.
Black women and girls are continuously pressured to keep their silence and truth for the protection of black women who have committed violence, sexual or otherwise, against them because of some strange warped definition of “racial solidarity.”
With this conservation started with this important and ground-breaking documentary, it is clear that the most effective way currently to object to the proliferation of R. Kelly and his career is to support the black women who have created the #MuteRKelly movement.