R & B singer R. Kelly, whose actual name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, wrote the lyrics to a number of great songs that have become embedded in the collective psyche of the Black community. “Step in the Name of Love” became the tenth single from Kelly to reach #1 on the R&B chart. In addition, he wrote the classic, “I Believe I Can Fly,” that can be heard at graduations, in churches and in other gatherings all over America. This is the bright side of this enigmatic personality.
On the dark side, R. Kelly has been rumored to be a pedophile, domestic abuser, and sex slave cult leader.
Lifetime television aired a three-day, six-segment documentary titled “Surviving R. Kelly” that has created a firestorm of controversy. In it, a number of people were interviewed including his ex-wife, former employees, family members, journalists, attorneys, the founder of the #Me Too movement, the parents of allegedly “captive” brainwashed young women, and others who shared their take on R. Kelly’s behavior.
In some ways, this issue has divided the Black community between those who believe he is a wrong-doer, those who believe yes, he’s wrong, but the parents of the so-called victims are EQUALLY wrong; and finally, those who don’t care and will continue to purchase and listen to his music.
This latter group has put a bad taste in the mouths of those who believe R. Kelly’s ability to elude consequences is abhorrent.
His behavior includes some high-profile antics, such as marrying 15-year-old singer Aaliyah, and of being seen on a widely-circulated sex tape urinating on a 14-year-old girl. Some of the individuals providing testimony described how girls living under his watch are subjected to starvation, beatings, and more if they “misbehave.” His former wife testified that she was moved to the point of near suicide due to deep depression caused by his extreme maltreatment.
Several themes have emerged from this malevolent situation. For one, there is an extreme disregard for the well-being of the girls whose lives have been negatively impacted by R. Kelly, and a surprisingly large number of people who are actually blaming the girls and women for what has happened to them are Black women!
Another theme is a wildly consistent deflection strategy that goes like this: Why are they focusing on R. Kelly when Weinstein, Hugh Hefner, Catholic priests, Elvis Presley and others who have been blamed for similar behavior are not being held accountable? They assert that this is just another tactic to take a successful Black man down.
There are at least two glaring errors in this reasoning. First, the only reason that we know about the others like Hefner, Presley, Weinstein, et al is because they have been brought into the spotlight. This deflection strategy is so ubiquitous that it is doubtful that ANY African American male will be held accountable by a certain group of Black people if they can point to a white counterpart with the same behavior.
The most important lesson deflectors need to know is this: the reason that the R. Kelly situation, the Cosby situation, or others are brought to light is because someone took the initiative to hold them accountable. Bill Cosby’s accuser retained the services of renowned lawyer Gloria Allred. R. Kelly is being targeted by parents of girls under Kelly’s influence. Their campaign has successfully brought the issue to the forefront.
This is how things are done, the world is moved by movers and shakers who move and shake the issues.
The saddest outcome of the Kelly debacle, however, is the realization that an incredibly large number of African Americans do not value the lives of Black girls! As one writer put it, Some Black Lives Matter, and this excludes Black women and girls.
This travesty can destroy the Black community if a change does not happen. We will never, EVER, find relief from oppression if one-half of our community is relegated to the garbage dump. We should, therefore, take R. Kelly’s song, “Step in the Name of Love” and apply it literally. Love is the Law. If we do not learn this valuable lesson, we will hate ourselves out of existence. A Luta Continua.