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Courage to #muterkelly


If your name includes Robert and Kelly, you are not permitted to be left alone with my daughter.

Yesterday, I signed into my Facebook account and at the top of my feed was a good friend of mine from Chicago. The tone of the status update pulsed with anger. She watched the Lifetime documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” that shares the stories of underage girls and women abused by the singer. In my friend’s post, she discussed an invitation she refused to a party at R. Kelly’s home when she was fourteen.

My friend is not the only person I know who has had some contact with the singer and his accomplices.

When I was in high school, two girls in my neighborhood talked about having relationships with R. Kelly. As recently as 2016, before we moved abroad, my wife was working out at the gym when someone invited her to a R. Kelly party.

After reading my friend's post and remembering others encounters with the self-declared king of R&B music, I decided to watch the documentary. I have not had cable TV in my home in over ten years, so before coming home last Friday, I was not sure if I had access to Lifetime. After talking with my wife about the comment I read on Facebook, she told me Lifetime is a channel included in the cable package that comes with our rent.

The three-part program begins with Kelly’s upbringing in a Chicago housing project and proceeds to discuss his rise to fame. Using footage from interviews, commentary from cultural critics and people who have worked with him, the documentary paints a picture of a troubled transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Robert Kelly, R. Kelly, grew up with limited resources. He was one of four children and molested by a family member. Music became his outlet to deal with his difficult childhood.

Over time, R. Kelly's talents gained recognition. He had multiple albums that sold well. In 1996, he earned a nomination for his first Grammy after writing a song for Michael Jackson.

Somewhere in between childhood and fame, R. Kelly developed some disturbing behavior.

He began to manipulate minors into abusive sexual relationships. One of the first notable, but likely not the first victim, was the late singer Aaliyah.

R. Kelly married Aaliyah when she was fifteen years old. He was twenty-seven. They lied on the marriage certificate that indicated her age as eighteen years old.

I remember hearing about R. Kelly's marriage to Aaliyah when I was in junior high school. Why a grown man married a fifteen-year-old girl baffled me in 1994, and it does today. From the evidence provided in the documentary, it is clear that R. Kelly has a problem. Incarceration with adequate mental health services is overdue for the man who sees "nothing wrong with a little bump n grind" of minors and not fully consenting adults.

R. Kelly's actions are not only illegal but disturbing on multiple levels. I am the father of an eight-year-old daughter and two boys who are six and five. It turns my stomach to think about an adult taking sexual advantage of them. I am the brother to five sisters.

Yes, it pisses me off to know that men of wealth and status continue to abuse children and women without consequences in our society.

Multiple women interviewed in the documentary, described how R. Kelly damaged them. He kept them locked in his Chicago studio, Olympia Fields and Atlanta estates. The girls and women who lived with him were completely isolated from loved ones and forced to engage in demeaning sexual acts.

The documentary presented enough evidence to convict R. Kelly on charges of child pornography, rape, and other sexual assault crimes against minors and adults. He is guilty alongside the countless bystanders who supported his exploits over the years.

Leadership is about taking a stand for injustices. In solidarity with #muterkelly and #metoo, I have deleted all of his music from my playlists. I haven't in the past and pledge not to attend any of his future concerts. I want to encourage you to take similar actions.

Our women are intelligent, powerful, and capable of taking care of their selves. It is also imperative that we do better to treat girls and women with respect.

My purpose in life includes being a father to my children and a husband to my wife. It also includes using my talents, skills, and abilities to serve as an advocate for social justice.

This week, I want you to revisit your life's purpose and incorporate the courage to #muterkelly and do better by the minors and adults in your life.

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