'Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time.'
For over two decades, R. Kelly has been accused of abusing and sexually harassing young black women and the #MuteRKelly campaign has decided enough is enough. Yesterday, the women of colour branch of the Time’s Up movement released an open letter calling for ‘appropriate investigations’ into the claims and also put pressure on his business partners to sever ties with him.
In an open letter published to The Root, the WOC division addressed their ‘Fellow Women of Colour’ to recognise their struggles and make their demands. It followed in the footsteps of actress Ashley Judd suing Harvey Weinstein for defamation and sexual assault allegations and the recent outcome of Bill Cosby’s lawsuit, which saw the former star convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
The statement read, ‘We see you. We hear you. Because we are you.
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.
As women of color within Time’s Up, we recognize that we have a responsibility to help right this wrong. We intend to shine a bright light on our WOC sisters in need. It is our hope that we will never feel ignored or silenced ever again.’
It listed the numerous allegations against Kelly, which included his controversial marriage to a then 15 year old Aaliyah, multiple lawsuits against him for sexual misconduct, statutory rape, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint and furnishing illegal drugs to a minor as well as 21 counts of child pornography which included acts of oral sex, urination and more.
He has also been accused of reportedly trapping six women in his residences in a ‘cult-like’ atmosphere as well as knowingly infecting one woman with an STD. Kelly was sued in 2002 for impregnating an underage woman named Patrice Jones, who he then allegedly forced to have an abortion, and additionally filmed a sex tape without another partner’s consent. He settled both cases out of court.
The WOC’s open letter continued to introduce the #MuteRKelly campaign, a co-ordinated online effort to ‘shine a bright light on our WOC sisters in need’ and a call for R. Kelly’s business partners to join them in their fight. They include his record label RCA Records, Ticketmaster who are currently selling tickets for his May 11 concert, the concert’s venue Greensboro Coliseum Complex, as well as Spotify and Apple Music who stream his albums.
The statement finished, ‘The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause. With that said, we demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly’s abuse made by women of color and their families for over two decades now. And we declare with great vigilance and a united voice to anyone who wants to silence us: Their time is up.’
A number of high profile stars of colour also shared messages on social media expressing similar sentiments, including A Wrinkle In Time director Ava DuVernay, Lupita N’yongo, Viola Davis, producer Shonda Rhimes, singer John Legend and Time’s Up founder Tarana Burke.
R. Kelly has since responded to the movement in a statement to Variety, which some have viewed as utterly horrific. His spokesperson said, ‘Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement. We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals—and in this case, it is unjust and off-target. We fully support the rights of women to be empowered to make their own choices. Time’s Up has neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly’s support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts.
Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time. Kelly’s music is a part of American and African-American culture that should never—and will never—be silenced.’
One of the most controversial parts of his statement was however the following: ‘Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it. We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.’
The phrase ‘public lynching of a black man’ quickly drew fury across the internet, as it co-opted sensitive imagery intertwined with the African American experience of slavery and racism to position him as a victim.
Since the statement and the #MuteRKelly initiative quickly began trending, many of the named companies have yet to act and as of right now his Greensboro Coliseum concert will still be going ahead.
However, Ticketmaster has confirmed that he has been withdrawn from the lineup from an upcoming pre-Mother’s Day concert.