On R. Kelly: End The Sexualization of Black girls

Editors Note: The original article was written in 2017. Edits have been made to include more recent revelations.

“I had to ask permission to eat, to sleep, to buy myself feminine products or even to use my phone,” Crown said of her detention. “It felt like I was in a prison that I’d never get out of. I had no limits on what I should have been doing, however, sexually. I secretly did what I could to mentally deal with this at the time.” 

This is the story of Mimi Crown and her experience as a sex traffic victim. Her story was told last year before there was even a mention of the docu series Surviving R. Kelly. Her story, like so many seems to have been forgotten and society seems to act like these recent accusations are somehow new. 

After nearly 20 years of following the career and lifestyle of R&B singer R. Kelly, reporter Jim DeRotagis published an in-depth piece to Buzzfeed revealing the distraught testimonies from parents who claim that the famed music legend is running an abusive cult that has taken over the lives of their teenage daughters. This is not the first time Kelly has been connected with sexual manipulation of young women. For almost 25 years, R-Kelly has been able to successfully prey, manipulate, sexually abuse and prosper off the bodies of young Black girls. 

Like most women’s organizations, Black Women for Wellness was appalled by the latest accusations in a long history of pedophile behavior by R-Kelly. But what was the most hurtful was the almost celebratory spirit in disregard for Black young women and girls. Taking a peruise of our Facebook page, comments like these popped up: 

“Here we go again always the Black man l don’t condone some of the behavior, but damn it’s okay for Hugh Heffner to do the same just to name a few really??? They wanna crucify Bill Cosby these women were not held hostage some went willingly.” 

“When they bring out some proof of him screwing young girls…these Women are Women and I havent seen a 17 year old and down at all.One of the girls came out and said she is not being kept agianst her will at all.Her parents are mad because she dont want to come home and leave R.Kelly old ass alone. There 18 it’s their choice really…ijs. I understand the parents frustration but at the end of the day those girls are able to choose what they want to do in life right now and aint nothing the parents can do about it but just wait.” 

These comments illustrate why intersectionality is crucial to the justice work within the Black community. Black girls suffering is told to wait in line when it comes to the progress of the Black community. Black girls disappearance is seen is not newsworthy.  Black girls pain is not felt when we are abused. Our values, our intentions our families are questioned when we dare to say that we matter. That what happens to Black girls both within and outside of the community needs to be not only talked about, but rectified. Black girls rarely get to be girls, especially when it’s juxtaposed to the protection of Black men. Can we not hold that yes there is vampant racism and that oppressed people can also be perpetrators of oppression. Or that some of the clapback about R.Kelly could be because he is a Black man but that doesn’t absolve him of stategory raping teenage Black girls or trafficking young Black women. 

Which brings me to my next point.

Black men, where y’all at? Many times the issues of Black girls are waived primarily by Black women. The emotional labor of both lifting up Black women issues with the burden of holding the best face forward for the Black community falls on the backs of Black women without any fanfare. In order to fully address and rebuild Black families, Black men need to not only be involved, but unapologetically vocal to the issues of Black girls and women. This means not only fighting for us when we are there, but fighting for us when we are not. This means having the conversations with your fellow brothers, uncles, cousins, father, sons, homeboys and mentors that doesn’t scapegoat R. Kelly behaviors, and those like him in our own families, but rather call out that this type of abuse will no longer be tolerated. 

This is not a rant about by thoughts on R.Kelly, there’s nothing to think about there. He’s trash. Period. This is about all the Black girls who have been manipulated, raped, trafficked, and abused and never got their voices heard or received justice. The  continued protectionof Kelly and his legacy emphasizes an inability to treat Black girls as simply that — girls. Allowing these recent revelations to dissipate with the news cycle — without further investigation — supports the continued victimization of Black women and girls by Kelly and by society at large. Record labels, venues, companies, and fans who choose his music of Black girls livelihood are all complicit until they step up and support women and girls by demanding that the allegations against Kelly are investigated and resolved. 

Wake Up People!

Stop Supporting his music. Invest in Black Women and girls organizations. Teach your daughters self-love and positive body image. And stop making excuses for these sex offenders who are targeting our daughters!

Lashea Brown is the program coordinator for theBlack Women for Wellnessprogram Get Smart B4 U Get Sexy.