The past year or so has seen some of the entertainment industry’s most infamous harassers and abusers get some semblance of punishment for their crimes, thanks to #MeToo and #TimesUp, as well as some top-notch reporting and a lot of women who simply refused to give up. Bill Cosby was found guilty; Harvey Weinstein will never work again; figures as varied as Casey Affleck and James Franco and James Toback have been stripped of the power that gave them the ability to cloak their alleged crimes in ‘male genius’. There’s still much work to do, but even the most cynical woman has the right to feel somewhat hopeful about the future.
One big name has conspicuously been absent from much of this: R. Kelly. The musician’s crimes are numerous, the allegations sickening, and the secrecy surrounding them close to non-existent. Dogged reporters like Jim DeRogatis have refused to loosen their grip on getting the stories out about his alleged abuses, from rape to claims he runs an ‘abusive sex cult’. Women of colour have been particularly vocal on this issue, but it’s hard to overlook how this man’s abuses haven’t been dissected further, and how that may have something to do with the fact that his victims tend to be young black women. His concerts still sell out, musicians like Lady Gaga still rush to collaborate with him, and the music industry pocket their profits with nary a word of comment. As DeRogatis himself noted, by paraphrasing Malcolm X and Mark Anthony Neal, ‘Nobody matters less in society than young black women.’
Today, WOC, the women of colour branch within Time’s Up, announced their latest initiative, which takes direct aim at Kelly. In a statement, the group said, ‘For too long, our community has ignored our pain. The pain we bear is a burden that too many women of color have had to bear for centuries. The wounds run deep.’ They called upon RCA Records, Spotify, Apple Music, Ticketmaster and the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina, where Kelly is scheduled to perform in May, to ‘join us and insist on safety and dignity for women of all kinds.
John Legend and Ava DuVernay have already voiced their support for #MuteRKelly.
We join the call to #MuteRKelly and insist on the safety + dignity of all women. We demand investigations into R. Kelly’s abuse allegations made by women of color + their families for two decades. We call on those who profit from his music to cut ties. #MuteRKelly #TIMESUP #WOC pic.twitter.com/TYmDRVIH00— Ava DuVernay (@ava) April 30, 2018
(Header photograph from Getty Images)
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