It was Britni Danielle over at Clutch who first alerted me to a (now deleted) YouTube video of R. Kelly chastising his fans (and Black folk altogether) for not supporting his newest album, The Buffet. According to Danielle, Kelly’s record sales were deficient, and he imagined somehow that our community’s lack of support—and not his multiple “allegations” of sexual assault against teen Black girls—was the reason his record sales were so low.
In the video Kelly nagged:
“I bust my ass going around doing shows to survive, but I do this for the love,” Kelly said. “But come on, at some point we gotta start supporting each other. Everybody supports every other category of music; we gotta start supporting each other.”
I suppose it was R. Kelly’s need to boost his lagging sales, and an effort to connect with his “fans,” that made him (and his PR team) believe it wise to book a live chat with The Huffington Post. During this live chat, Kelly would answer questions from Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani and respond to questions and comments from viewers.
Listen, Black Twitter was lit: Birdman hand-rubbing and yoga stretches in front of their laptops in anticipation of the dragging that was sure to go down as soon as Kelly sat in the hot seat. Fly girl (my girl!) Yaba Blay—professor, producer and creator of Pretty Period—rang the alarm on Twitter, and those of us who will always stand for Black girls (and therefor stand against men like R. Kelly) began to Voltron up.
I was invited by Huffington Post Live to present a video question to R. Kelly because of my clear stance against him and any celebration of him and his music. The producers I’m sure believed (and I agree wholeheartedly) that R. Kelly cannot expect to reprimand Black audiences for not supporting him and his music without allowing space for those not supporting him to explain why. And for some of us, our lack of support is centered on our demand for justice for Kelly’s victims (both known and unknown), and for the countless victims of sexual violence, rape, incest and more that go unnoticed and uncounted for in our communities.
Additionally, Huffington Post staff manned the comments section of the live stream and diligently deleted many derogatory comments in an effort to be fair to R. Kelly.
But if you believe Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani’s interview with Kelly was an ambush, or anything more than a concise presentation of questions that viewers really wanted to know, then you might want to use the Google and revisit the definition of the word “ambush.” R. Kelly will forever, forever, have to address his charges of sexual assault, and he should always be prepared to do just that. He does not get to demand blind, silent allegiance from a community he has preyed upon. He does not get to beg me to buy his album and not expect to have to listen to why I will not.
My video question for Huffington Post live, which never aired because Kelly had a tantrum and walked off the interview, was: Considering Black women make up a significant amount of R. Kelly’s fan base, and also considering the multiple allegations of sexual assault and sexual abuse of Black girls waged against the singer, why should Black women continue to support him and his music?
It’s a valid question, especially when one considers the fact that some studies show a devastating 60% of Black girls experience sexual abuse and trauma before the age of 18. Couple that statistic with another alarming one:
The Department of Justice estimates that for every White woman that reports her rape, at least five white women do not report theirs; and yet, for every African-American woman that reports her rape, at least 15 African-American women do not report theirs.
These facts about the sexual assault and sexual abuse of Black girls and women are why some advocates, including me, will take every opportunity to address R. Kelly (and men like him) publicly. Because we know that of the one in 15 Black female victims of sexual assault who do report their assault, only a small percentage of those women who do report (maybe 3 in every 100) will receive any kind of justice.
So yes, R. Kelly’s acquittal of child pornography charges (stemming from one of the many videos that surfaced of Kelly having sex with minor Black girls), and the many more cases he settled out of court, happened long ago. But we will never forget, much in the same way we will never confuse a not guilty verdict with innocence.
Speaking of which, for those of you who choose to bring up Kelly’s not guilty verdict as a reason we should “leave him alone,” I hope you have also spoken on the fairness of the US justice system in cases like George Zimmerman’s or Darren Wilson’s. They were also found not guilty. Remember? Not the same thing? Riiiggghhhhttt.
Anyway, R. Kelly showed his ass at Huffington Post Live by deflecting the questions asked, speaking over and belittling the host, and playing victim. He behaved the same way he always does when not being cheered and lauded, but asked to own his past. You should watch it here.
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and soldier of love. Follow her musings on Twitter at @jonubian.