The January release of the six-part documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” has unveiled yet another man in power who took advantage of women. The series paints a vivid picture of Kelly, the R&B icon, as someone the audience never knew him to be. It shows him as an abusive, manipulative, controlling pedophile. A man who wrote hits like, “Ignition”, yet behind closed doors, molested young females and even married a fifteen-year-old.
I too bopped to “I Believe I Can Fly” off of the Space Jam soundtrack. It was Kelly’s talent that made me and so many other people overlook his crimes. According to the Chicago Tribune, nearly 2 million people watched the Lifetime Entertainment documentary. More people are now aware of his crimes than ever before. The problem that comes from watching this gripping documentary is that all of these stomach-churning crimes against minors began decades ago.
Although this series goes more in-depth on his crimes, it’s not the first time these kinds of allegations against Kelly were made. According to The New York Times, in the early 2000s, the vail was beginning to be lifted on all the sickening crimes he was committing. However, “In 2002, the year he was indicted on charges of child pornography, he performed at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics — a duality that spoke to the level of his fame”, according to the New York Times.
As The Times said, Kelly was at the top of his game when this happened. His music was reaching more fans than ever and he was known throughout the industry, not just the R&B genre. As a society, we saw the allegations and turned a blind eye.
During an ABC Nightline interview, R. Kelly’s ex-wife went into detail about certain instances of abuse. When she was asked why she stayed, she explained that she stayed with him out of fear. Kelly has musical talent. He turned his talent into power; the power to manipulate, mistreat, abuse and hurt countless women.
However, it’s 2019, and recent years have urged new movements toward women’s rights and speaking out against abusers. The #MeToo movement sparked change. Women are speaking out about the injustices they have faced. This huge step in society has made the women hurt by Kelly comfortable enough to speak out against him. They found strength in numbers and found confidence through the fellow men and women that spoke out about their abusers. The positive development of #MeToo coincides with the timing of the Kelly scandals reappearing.
The story of Kelly and what he did is much larger than one man. No one stuck up for those children. He got away with this for decades. The pain he inflicted on these young, innocent women changed their lives forever. It is our responsibility as a society to hear their cries, believe their stories, and help ensure that it doesn’t happen anymore.
I can no longer listen to Kelly’s music. My stomach drops when I think of how I used to find meaning in his songs. Now that I know what was going on behind the scenes, I’m sickened. The great poet Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” We now know better than to listen to Kelly. Coming together to #MuteRKelly is a necessary action that must take place in order to stand in solitude with the survivors of R. Kelly.
Women have been abused and mistreated far too long. This pattern of toxic masculinity must come to a shattering halt at this time. With movements like #MeToo, and spreading awareness of people like Kelly, there is hope on the horizon and the change has already begun.