I believe that there are three sides to every story; there’s one side, there’s the opposite side and there’s the side that God only knows. After watching the Lifetime documentary, ‘Surviving R. Kelly,” it’s crystal clear to me that we have failed our black girls and black women. At first I was hesitant on watching the docu-series, but I ended up doing so. As a result of that, I found it appalling, shocking, confusing and grew even more concerned about the grim reality of today’s society. When it comes to subject matter such as this, it’s important that we use the power that we have in the creativity we possess. Whether it’s through my skills as an artist, writer or designer, I aim to consistently take full advantage of my talents to either inspire someone, spark positive conversations or help someone with the knowledge that I have.
The Lifetime docu-series, “Surviving R. Kelly” chronicles a span of decades of the R&B singer’s alleged sexual abuse and misconduct, which has sparked a nationwide debate, including among celebrities and music industry types. The six-party documentary which first aired on Thursday, January 3, 2019, contained over more than 50 interviews. The documentary featured testimony from women who accused Kelly of physical, sexual and mental abuse.
It also put a spotlight on associates and relatives of the singer, including his brothers—Carey and Bruce Kelly, Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo Movement and singer John Legend, the only major music artist to participate in the series. Legend explained why he participated in speaking out against Kelly: “To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the documentary, it didn’t feel risky at all. I believe these women and don’t give a f–k about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision.”
Personally, what I took away from the docu-series is that it served as a reminder that from a historical standpoint, the black female, no matter how young, has been depicted as “hyper-sexualized” and “less innocent” than her white counterpart. I know some of you reading this might find it offensive or perhaps, a bit of “race baiting,” but that’s the absolute truth. Sexual assault and sexual violence victims always have the additional humiliation of trying to prove that “they didn’t ask for it.” This is highly evident with the black female because she is—arguably, the least protected group in our society.
Even the situation with the late R&B singer, Aaliyah, was incredibly saddening. Before a plane crash claimed her life, Aaliyah was a wonderful talent and seemed to have such a beautiful soul, but as the details of past events between R. Kelly and Aaliyah were unfolded in the docu-series, it seemed likely that Kelly took advantage of Aaliyah and the innocent gullibleness that comes along with being a young girl barely in her teens. Out of respect for Aaliyah’s family and close friends, that’s all I want to express about her at this time. She was truly a super talent that continues to be dearly missed by many people today.
I found the events, allegations and rumors that were touched upon throughout the series to be absolutely disturbing and equally confusing. Even though Kelly is obviously at the source of the matter, I still feel in my heart that on some level, we have ourselves to blame in this situation. I heard a lot of talk in the streets, read music magazines and websites about what was going on with Kelly. Despite failing to understand the severity of the alleged occurrences, I still continued to listen to his music. We have to stop convincing ourselves to NOT separate the art from the artist, sort of speak. Just because his voice is angelic, doesn’t mean his deeds are the same.
I also sense that there was a lack of responsibility on both sides, people in Kelly’s camp and the parents who were neglectful of looking after their daughters. Perhaps, some of these situations were motivated by promises of success and financial gain. As a father of a 16-year old black girl, I do all that I can to provide safety, wisdom, guidance and security, while letting her know that her life is precious to me. If I hear the slightest rumor about someone being a sexual abuser or predator and they’re in close contact with my child (school, workplace, neighborhood, etc.,) no amount of money in the world will prevent me from keeping her away with them. It all starts with educating our kids and informing them of the dangers and pitfalls of the world and how to deal with them. It is time for us to hold predators responsible, regardless of skin color, creed or background.
I’m going to leave you with this, and hopefully, some of you can give me some clarification. Why did the survivors, along with some of the parents, took so long to speak out against R. Kelly? What is the motivating factor there? If black women are our queens, then where are all the kings—our black men who should be at the forefront in the struggle of protecting our black girls and black women? We have to ask ourselves… do black girls’ lives REALLY matter? I desperately want to read some of your comments and responses.
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