#MeToo Movement not just about white victims

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Musician R. Kelly is photographed at the Chicago Recording Company, on Oct. 15, 2015. | James Foster/For Sun-Times Media

After decades of basking in his fans’ adoration despite accusations of sexual misconduct, R. Kelly’s time may be up.

His appearance at the UIC Pavilion for the 2018 Love Jam concert on Saturday was scratched after a protest launched by #MuteRKelly campaign urged the university to cancel the show.

The campaign, founded by two social justice activists in Atlanta, has dogged the R&B singer’s steps across the country.

Their next stop is Greensboro, North Carolina where Kelly is scheduled to perform on May 11.

“If you are in Chicago and want to assist with a potential action please let me know. When we say #MuteRKelly we mean Mute. R. Kelly,” posted co-founder Kenyette Tisha Barnes, on Facebook.


Acquitted on child pornography charges in 2008 stemming from a leaked videotape, Kelly’s name came up again in 2017 when several parents complained that the 50-year-old entertainer had recruited their daughters into a sex cult.

Last July, former Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis, who broke the story of the child pornography tape, reported that Kelly had a half-dozen women living in rental properties that were allegedly being sexually abused.

If that were not bad enough, in a recently released BBC documentary, “R Kelly: Sex, Girls and Videotapes,” Kitti Jones, 19, accused the singer of “grooming” under-aged girls for sexual encounters.

And in a complaint filed with the Dallas Police Department, Kelly was accused of sexual assault, giving drugs and alcohol to an underage girl, unlawful restraint and intentionally infecting the girl with an STD.

After the BBC documentary, Kelly’s entertainment lawyer and his executive assistant, both female, quit.

Kelly had a well-oiled publicity team when he was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography a decade ago, but today he is apparently trying to weather this media storm without much professional help.

That would explain why the R&B singer likened the new sexual misconduct charges to a “public lynching,” in a statement released by his management team:

“R Kelly’s music is part of American and African American culture that should never — and will never — be silenced,” USA Today reported.

“Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of this. We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture,” the statement concluded.

Barnes responded in an open letter posted on theGrio website on Wednesday.

“You have an over 25 year history of sexual exploitative behavior against young black women and girls. Why Black girls? Because you knew no one would care…[Y]ou were protected, by a social- cultural pathology that absolves Black men of sexual violence in our community…You were not ‘lynched’ you were just not held accountable,” she said.

Bill Cosby’s PR machine also evoked the lynching analogy after the comedian was convicted of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand more than a decade ago.

But the days when sexual abusers could hide behind the skirts of black women because of America’s history of violent racial injustice are over.

Most often our abusers look like us.

“For too long, our community has ignored our pain. The pain we bear is a burden that too many women of color have had to bear for centuries. The wounds run deep,” said the Time’s Up Women of Color subcommittee in announcing its support of the Kelly boycott.

“The scars of history make certain we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause. With that said, we demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly’s abuse made by women of color and their families for over two decades now,” the Women of Color/Time’s Up concluded.

“The last time Kelly was called out on sexual abuse charges, his fans, mostly young black women, showed up at the 26th and California wearing T-shirts and carrying signs proclaiming their love.

But given the influence of Time’s Up Women of Color subcommittee, which includes filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Oscar winner Viola Davis, and superstar TV producer Shonda Rhimes, this time might be different.

Because super jock Tom Joyner’s vow to no longer play Kelly’s music is a clear indication there is a strong commitment on the part of leaders in the entertainment industry to stop the abuse.

Like the #MeToo movement, this campaign isn’t just about what Kelly allegedly did decades ago.

It is also about the young women who may have fallen under his influence and are still suffering today.

They know the truth.

And that truth could set other women free.


Mary Mitchell and educator Leslie Baldacci are co-hosts of a popular new podcast called “Zebra Sisters” — a refreshing look at race relations from the viewpoints of two women – one black and one white. Mary and Leslie unwind awkward subjects and discuss current events with candor and humor. Subscribe (for free) on iTunes and Google Play Music — or listen to individual episodes on the Sun-Times’ website. Email Mary and Leslie at zebrasisters@suntimes.com or give them a shoutout on the Zebra Hotline (312) 321-3000, ext. ZBRA (9272).

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