One of R&B’s biggest stars is under fire after a damaging documentary sparked off the new year. R. Kelly has released 12 albums, sold over 75 million records, and earned three Grammys. We’ve all been to a gathering where his hit song, “Step in the Name of Love” was on the playlist, and “I Believe I Can Fly” was a moment of inspiration. But, even in the midst of all that success, seven women came forward in Lifetime’s heartbreaking six-part docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly.”
Decades of abuse are the premise, explaining how these accusers survived the unthinkable. The first two parts of the documentary, which premiered on Jan. 3, gave audiences background information about R. Kelly’s own sexual abuse he suffered as a child, his big break, and relationship with Aaliyah, an R&B singer whom he discovered.
Episodes four and five debuted the next night and addressed the infamous sex tape. The tape, which allegedly showed R. Kelly engaging in sexual acts with an underage girl, is what brought about the 2008 child pornography trial, where he was found not guilty on all 21 charges.
The final installment premiered on Jan. 5, and it was primarily about families on a daunting search for their daughters. Specifically, three women who were under R. Kelly’s spell and being held against their will.
The documentary reminds us constantly that R.Kelly has denied any wrongdoing.
“Surviving R. Kelly” is a never-ending horror show. It seems like there was not enough tissue for the women who reminisced on the real-life nightmares they underwent at the hands of the “Bump ‘n Grind” singer.
The nail in the coffin for me was the number of people who turned a blind eye to pedophilia, abuse, and human trafficking. R. Kelly is a monster, and it is time to silence R. Kelly indefinitely.
We need to not only “Mute R. Kelly” (#MuteRKelly is a nationwide movement), but we must strip him of every civil liberty and financial resource. Hurting his pockets and livelihood is the only way to stop a vicious predator from destroying any more lives. We need to stop buying his records and purchasing concert tickets.
Celebrities with power and influence, specifically those who have worked with R. Kelly in the past, need to denounce him as well. Similar to John Legend, who was part of the docuseries, they should publicly express their concern about his predatory behavior and refuse to work with him on any level.
The documentary is an eye-opener for other survivors, too. During the airing of the documentary, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) experienced a 27 percent increase in calls at the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Girls for Gender Equity released a Viewer’s Guide “to help audiences process and discuss the themes discussed.”
There is an ongoing war against Black women when it involves sexual crimes, a narrative that has been shaped since slavery. It is no coincidence that the vast majority of R. Kelly’s survivors are African American women.
If the 14-year-old girl in R. Kelly’s infamous sex tape were White, I would not be writing this review. There would have been so much outrage, and White people would have asked for R. Kelly’s immediate crucifixion. White women have a level of protection and privilege that would not allow a Black man to have sex with a White child without severe consequences.
“Surviving R. Kelly” became an instant hashtag and trending topic during its opening weekend. The conversations and debates were intense as some defended R. Kelly, now 52 years old, while others took a stand to emasculate him.
To the skeptics, who have gone out of their way to declare his innocence or justify his crimes, stop playing the blame game. It’s not the fault of neglectful parents or fast tail little girls. Stop pulling out your custom Venn Diagrams to convince us how other notable men have done the same without public backlash.
Lastly, please stop with the “R. Kelly is a distraction from the real issues” speech. I can sympathize for R. Kelly’s victims, remain prayerful that the U.S. Government Shutdown ends soon, express concern for Jazmine Barnes’ senseless murder near Houston, and rejoice in the clemency of Cyntoia Brown all at the same time.
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