VOICE | At the Expense of Black Girls Surviving R. Kelly

Jan 14 · 4 min read

-Beverly Bond

Dream Hampton, you Rock! Thank you for having the courage and conviction to make this compelling documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, chronicling Kelly’s vile and harrowing crimes which have been overlooked, while in plain sight for decades. The riveting 6-part docu-series compounded the testimonies and experiences of multiple women and those around Kelly into a shocking story of repetitive physical and mental abuse. Not only did it present a detailed, bulletproof profile of a predator by illuminating the sheer gravity of his transgressions, it also exhibited how the safety of Black girls is continually belittled almost as if second nature, regardless of the assaults against them.

For years Kelly’s serial sexual abuse allegations have been repeatedly discounted while his victims have been scorned, vilified, blamed and shamed with comments like:

they are lying”, “they are trying to set him up for money”, “these young girls are fast”, “they should have known better”, OR “she looked like she knew what she was doing.”

The entertainment music industry in particular, downplayed and normalized Kelly’s behavior, and also normalized the idea that the young Black girl victims didn’t matter and were not worth our protection or concern. I remember when that video came out. The industry was buzzing with an almost giddy frivolity about it. It became such a ‘thing’ that record promoters, who typically made their nightly rounds to all the hot clubs to give out records to the DJ’s, started passing out the sex-tape like it was a mix-tape. With a devious grin and a long “Yoooooooo” the question followed…“did you see the video YET?” The tone was almost celebratory; nothing clandestine about it. It was presented like it was special; like it was a cultural event; — like when ‘Ether’ dropped. When I questioned one popular promoter who tried to give me the dvd, about why he was promoting child pornography, he looked at me stunned for a minute, and then said, “Bev you know what…you are right.” With that, he closed the box of dvd’s, questioning himself about how he had even gotten caught up in the frenzy of it all. Before that moment he hadn’t considered how crass, imprudent, and incriminating it was. The decision by those in the music industry to provide the promoters with these dvds to pass out to djs, party promoters and bar owners is not only an indictment on our cultural conditioning, it reveals a premeditated, calculated systemic operation to water-down Kelly’s actions and make it a part of pop culture so that it didn’t appear taboo; all at the expense of Black girls.

Kelly once said in an interview with the Huffington Post, when asked about his serial sexual abuse allegations, “I don’t hear that, from anybody. Everywhere I go from bars-to restaurants-to sold-out concerts overseas, and back…I get nothing but love.” The support and fanfare that has continued to uphold his career, despite public knowledge of the allegations, confirmed Kelly’s narcissistic belief in his own invincibility.

Kelly continued to have sold out concerts, perform on major award shows, and collaborate with top artists even after the “infamous sex-tape” was released. In 2013, when I saw Lady Gaga feature R. Kelly in a racy performance of her song “Do What You Want To My Body” at the American Music Awards, I was in shock! I remember thinking that this spectacle is yet another deliberate attempt to spit in the face of Black girls’ pain.

Since the docuseries aired, social media feeds are being flooded with venomous victim blaming and “What about‘s”… and “Why now”?” Most puzzling are the multitudes of people who say that Kelly is the victim, and that this public ‘calling out‘ of him as a serial-sexual-pedephile-predator is another attempt to bring down a black man, rather than seeing it as a village effort to defend and protect black women and girls. His supporters say he should be “innocent until proven guilty” even though there is a whole video of him proving himself guilty! The people defending him sound no different than those people who saw Eric Garner get choked to death on video but still questioned if it was murder.

There are repercussions for excusing Kelly’s behavior. It should go without saying that it is never the fault of the child when the adult predator preys on them. It should be considered that any man who allegedly ‘chokes’ a woman until she passes out is a potential murderer. It should be understood that any man that sleeps with children is a pedophile and that any man that enslaves women and young girls is a sociopath. R. Kelly is a dangerous man walking. Any woman or young girl who catches his eye is a potential victim.

It took incredible audacity to tackle this subject of R.Kelly in a documentary and I applaud Dream, the producers and the executives at Lifetime Networks. The documentary gathered all the evidence together in one place for all to view. Hearing the same story over and over again with the same sick details made it undeniable for people. It has moved the needle and has sparked a long overdue conversation many people have been too afraid to have. It is one giant step in the direction of breaking the silence and disrupting the cycle of abuse. It is also the beginning of a healing process for our communities and a reckoning for those who choose to violate our girls … AND our boys.

I want to salute the brave families and survivors who gave their chilling testimonies in the documentary. Thank you to others who risked their safety and reputations to tell the truth. Prayers to the many families still waiting for loved ones to come home & most urgently, let’s all pray for the safety of those who are still caught in R. Kelly’s house of horror.

#survivingrkelly #muterkelly #blackgirlsmatter


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    BLACK GIRLS ROCK! is a global women’s empowerment movement founded by @BeverlyBond