In November 1998, R. Kelly released his album “R,” which features a duet with Celine Dion. The song “I’m Your Angel” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. A grand jury has indicted Kelly for engaging in oral and vaginal sex with a girl identified by the initials R.L., who was between the ages of 13 and 17. The incident occurred sometime between September 1998 and September 2001.
In February 2003, R. Kelly released “Chocolate Factory.” Filled with hits such as “Snake,” “Step in the Name of Love,” and “Ignition (Remix),” Kelly packed dance floors at night clubs and weddings. The indictment, announced on Friday, alleges that Kelly “transmitted his semen onto [L.C.’s] body, for the purpose of” his “sexual gratification or arousal, by the use of force or threat of force.”
On June 11, 2010, Kelly performed at the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He was on one of the grandest stages in the world, representing his country, singing the World Cup anthem “Sign of a Victory.” A few months earlier, according to Friday’s indictment, Kelly had oral and vaginal sex with J.P., a girl who was between the ages of 13 and 17.
For decades, rumors have circulated about Kelly’s predatory focus on young black girls in and around Chicago. Ask anyone from the south side and they likely have a story about a cousin, a friend or a cousin’s friend who has seen his SUV prowling around his alma mater, Kenwood Academy. Someone from the city’s southern suburbs probably can tell a story about the parties at his home in Olympia Fields, Ill., where there were often underage girls present. These stories are widespread, well known and almost familiar. Journalists such as Jim DeRogatis worked tirelessly to document these accounts, but it was a lonely mission, and until recently, one that seemed futile.
Friday’s news conference was also familiar for many in Chicago who followed Kelly’s child pornography trial, which began in 2002 with a 21-count indictment, and ended in 2008 with his acquittal. Once again, charges were read alleging that R. Kelly committed reprehensible acts against the city’s young girls.
But it feels different now, and I believe it is different. Why? Because of #metoo. And Jim DeRogatis. And DeRogatis’ former colleague Abdon Pallasch. And filmmaker dream hampton. And her documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly.” All these factors finally pushed the right people in the right places to give a damn about young black girls.
On Friday, we saw Foxx, a black woman from Cabrini-Green who herself is a survivor of sexual abuse at a young age, publicly reading the charges against Kelly. She looks like, talks like and understands these girls. As state’s attorney, she will be leading the prosecution of the musician’s alleged crimes.
So for the second time this week, Chicago has “all eyez on” it. As before, we hope that there will be a transparent and open airing of the allegations against Kelly. And again, in front of a judge, a jury of Cook County residents and the world, he can plead his case. Similarly, so many women, who were children when they were victimized by a predator, can have their day in court.
His future will then be decided by the residents of Chicago, the very people who have often heard these stomach-churning rumors from family and friends, but have continued to support him over the decades. And throughout those same decades, R. Kelly has told us and shown us who he really is. I can only hope that Chicago is finally listening to voices that the city — and the nation — should have been hearing all along.