After a months-long investigation, BuzzFeed contributor Jim DeRogatis reports that R. Kelly lured a number of young women into what their families described to police as an “abusive cult.” According to interviews with former members of Kelly’s inner circle, DeRogatis documents that “six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”
At least one of the women has told police that she is fine. Kelly’s lawyer has denied the allegations, saying “We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life.”
We knew about Kelly’s tryst with a young Aaliyah Haughton. He married the late singer, who went by just Aaliyah, when she was 15 in 1994, after she claimed she was 18 on their marriage certificate. He wrote and produced her hit song “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number.” How subtle of him.
We knew about Kelly going to trial on 14 counts in a 2002 child pornography case after a video of him surfaced appearing to have sex with an underage girl. He was acquitted.
We knew, according to DeRogatis’s reporting, that Kelly would take trips to his old high school in Chicago to try to have sex with sophomore-age girls in the school gospel choir.
These women have names, and a number of them have pursued legal justice against Kelly. Tiffany Hawkins sued him, claiming he pressured her into group sex with other girls when she was 15. They settled out of court.
Tracy Sampson sued him, claiming he had sex with her when she was underage. They settled out of court.
Patrice Jones sued him, claiming he impregnated her when she was underage. They settled out of court.
Then Montina Woods sued him, after tapes of her having sex with Kelly appeared in a compilation sold by bootleggers. They settled out of court.
We’ve known. My God, we’ve known. And we’ve largely done nothing. Kelly over the years has always denied the allegations. And yet the hits keep coming. The record labels keep producing him. The venues keep booking him, even after the latest allegations. We keep buying show tickets. Other celebrities continue to work with him and produce songs, including Kanye West, Justin Bieber and the supposedly progressive Lady Gaga. BuzzFeed asked 43 of Kelly’s former collaborators if they would work with him again. Their non-answers were not surprising.
The saga of Robert Kelly says more about America, including black America, than it does himself. We have to ask ourselves, why? Why have we allowed Kelly, a.k.a. the Pied Piper, to lull us to sleep with his songs, unable to hear or see his alleged victims who have been speaking out for a long time? What if these women — or girls, in many cases – were white? (The accusers have predominantly been black women.)
The tragic truth is that Kelly’s alleged acts are dependent on the invisibility of black women and girls in the United States — as long as black women are seen to be a caste not worthy of protection and care in American society, his actions won’t receive widespread outcry and public pressure. Compare this with the vilification of Kanye West when he went after Taylor Swift at an awards show. What if R. Kelly caused even a fraction of the outrage West did?
We are in the age of #BlackLivesMatter. We should know better than to be supporting a man who reportedly uses his fame and power to prey on black girls. At least this black woman has had enough. It’s time to shut R. Kelly down for good.