Don’t be R. Kelly

DeAndrea Norman, Staff Writer

On Jan. 3 the Lifetime network aired the first part of a six-part documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” based on the decades of allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse against R&B singer R. Kelly.

Since the initial episode premiered there have been several news stories published about R. Kelly and his alleged abuse of others. Investigators are now looking into these allegations. Several celebrities from pop singer Lady Gaga to fellow R&B singer Tank have apologized for their past collaborations with Kelly.

I did not need to watch a documentary to convince myself that Kelly is guilty of these allegations and that he is a very sick and perverted man. I have been convinced since a very early age that these allegations were true.  These allegations have been around longer than I have been alive, yet Kelly was still a household name growing up and considered a legend for his contributions to music, including music that detailed his sexual escapades with underage girls; music that was played in my household growing up, even music that was sung at my third-grade graduation ceremony.

The docuseries details allegations of a sex cult, trafficking rings and decades of physical and mental abuse. Despite numerous people coming forward confirming these rumors and video evidence, Kelly adamantly denies all of these allegations.

The docuseries showed how friends, family, the music industry and fans enabled the self-proclaimed “Pied Piper of R&B” to manifest his darkest desires. It also highlights how complacent the music industry was in condemning Kelly for his actions. Another aspect the docuseries highlighted was the continued failure of our justice system on the rape culture in black communities.

Kelly’s escapades with women were not hidden and in fact flaunted right in front of their faces for everyone to see.

For over 20 years, young black girls and women accused Kelly of sexually assaulting minors but now the world finally wants to listen. Where was this concern and outrage when the 15-year-old R&B singer Aaliyah married a then 28-year-old Kelly? People saw the forged documents, an illegal marriage, and even a $100 settlement Kelly paid to keep the marriage a secret. Most people would think this would have been enough to end his career, but the exact opposite happened. Kelly’s career continued to prosper. His illegal and disgusting behavior was ignored, and he was dubbed a “musical genius.”

While I am thankful for Kelly’s fall from grace, largely in part to Dream Hampton, who worked as an executive producer on the documentary, it is puzzling to me that it took a documentary over 20 years after the first reports of sexual misconduct for people to finally realize how disturbing Kelly’s actions and behaviors are.

“Surviving R. Kelly” highlighted years of abuse that young vulnerable black girls faced that were largely ignored by society. I am hoping what we as a society get from this docuseries is that rape culture is still a silent epidemic in the black community. Victims should be believed no matter who their accuser is and their accuser, no matter his or her contributions to society, should be held accountable for their actions.

I am hoping this docuseries finally puts an end to Kelly’s career. I am also hoping that young black girls who come forward with allegations of rape and abuse are taken as seriously as anyone else who comes forward with the same allegations.