If you’re on social media for any considerable amount of time, at some point you’ll come across someone still questioning if we, as a community, should continue to support R. Kelly – mainly by listening to his music. Although the No’s outweigh the Yes’s, there are a considerable amount of people that don’t see nothing wrong with a little bump and grind.
As much as we don’t want to acknowledge it, R. Kelly is a musical genius; dubbed the "Pied Piper of R&B". It will never outweigh the fact that he’s also one of the most heinous pedophiles and abusers of Black girls and women of our time.
When I hear R. Kelly’s music on the radio, it no longer brings back memories of college parties, having 12 Play on repeat, and the addicting Trapped in the Closet videos. No more nostalgia. Just repulsion.
Over the years, people have turned a blind eye to what he was doing and allowed him to hide in plain sight. He has found refuge in the Black community, as well as the gospel community, pacifying us with I Believe I Can Fly, I Wish, The World’s Greatest, and two-stepping to Happy People.
The reckoning that took place because of the Surviving R. Kelly docu-series was long overdue. The sexual abuse and violation of Black girls and women was not taken seriously, and no one, including those who worked for him, would not admit to his wrongdoing.
And now, R. Kelly is finally being tried in criminal court. With the second week of testimonies underway, he faces one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.
Prosecutors believe R. Kelly married Aaliyah when she was 15 to stop her from testifying that she may had become pregnant by him. He was 27 at the time.
Let that sink in.
We know the story about Aaliyah. We’ve heard it over and over again throughout the years. It doesn’t make it any less disturbing. And even as R. Kelly’s sexual conduct is on trial, the actions of those in his inner circle — managers, bodyguards, drivers and members of his entourage, and others are to blame as well. They all knew what was going on and did nothing. Their silence enabled Robert Sylvester Kelly to ruin the lives of Black girls and women for decades.
It’s not just bad behavior we’re talking about. This is not an instance of God using a flawed human being to do His work. The work that he has been done is evil, and that is nothing of God.
“Only the Black woman can say ‘When and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole…race enters with me.’” – Anna Julia Cooper
Regardless of the outcome of this trial, the question remains of how will Black girls and women be protected? It’s not a slogan we like to hashtag. It requires actual work. We deserve to be protected from abuse and taken seriously when we ask for help. We deserve the full scope of recognizing our humanity.
The worthiness of Black womanhood is the highest form of self-preservation, not in spite of family, friends, community, or even this world. If the Black woman can be free, then we are all free.