author – activist – faculty – mom
Dream Hampton‘s 6-part Lifetime TV series “Surviving R Kelly” has brought it all up again when it aired this past week. This is a very divisive issue in the Black Community. Because it divides those who value the health and safety of black women and girls from those who don’t. And it’s painful to see who falls on which side.
Every few years, someone sounds the alarm about R Kelly. Jim DeRogatis has an extensive archive of meticulously researched articles on Kelly that detail the abuse, and it has never been enough to shut him down. Because the lives of black women and girls weren’t sufficiently important to prioritize over the entertainment dollars Kelly was making for the industry. And consumers allegedly found his music too irresistible to pay attention to his potentially pedophillic muse. Every few years, someone sounds the alarm (Jessica Hopper in 2013), and somehow, Kelly kept managing to press the snooze button. Decade after decade. Scandal after scandal. Court case after court case. Expose after expose. I am one of many black women authors (Jamilah Lemieux, Mikki Kendall, Britni Danielle, Jamie Nesbitt Golden) who has written extensively about him since the early ’00s (I also designed the “evidence” images in this post). But nothing has ever been enough. Not his fraudulent marriage to a child. Not a video of him having sex with a child. Not an endless parade of underage and barely legal witnesses. It was never enough. And black music consumers, led by male rape apologists, have insisted on either separating the music from the man or blaming the victims. All as Kelly himself continues to fuel the paranoid fantasy that he is somehow the victim, the persecuted one, and using his extensive platform to amplify that narrative, as well as to attract a never-ending stream impressionable young female fans who were in a position to be groomed by him for further abuse. But could it be that Dream Hampton’s meticulously researched and produced Lifetime TV series will be the tipping point? Is it possible that this black woman’s vision will finally succeed where the legal system, the entertainment industry, and the power of the black consumer have all failed? Could these industries, in this new landscape, where MeToo and TimesUp have modeled consequences for predators, will finally shut R Kelly down for good? I certainly hope so. Why the hell are we still talking about this predator and his predatory action in the present tense? There is no good reason. Because as folks say in the vernacular: we shoulda been done handled it. So may Dream Hampton’s series be the period at the end of R Kelly’s sentence. Let “Surviving R Kelly” be the final alarm bell. Because we need to wake the hell up, so that we’re not having this same conversation again in 2029.