For years and decades, there have been allegations that R&B star R. Kelly had been abusing girls and women with apparent impunity.
They were mostly young Black women. Black girls.
This, according to accusers and other people who called for his accountability, was part of why it took so long for the criminal justice system to make the right turn that led to his Monday conviction in the sex trafficking case. They claim that it happened because of the hard work and determination of Black women who are not willing to be forgotten. It is difficult to speak out against violence and sexual assault. According to those who have worked in this field, the obstacles faced by Black girls and women are made more difficult by society’s hypersexualization of them at a young age and stereotyping their bodies as promiscuous. This is in an environment that also has a long history of racism, sexism, and that denies them autonomy over their bodies.
“Black females have lived in this country for many years and our bodies weren’t ours to start with,” stated Kalimah Johnson (executive director) of the SASHA Center, Detroit which offers services to survivors of sexual assault.
“Noone allows us to be worthy of protection,” she stated. She said that a human needs protection and love.
At all ages, Black girls are perceived to be more mature than white girls. They need less protection and know more about sex. Black girls were more likely to be compared with white girls in the 10, 14, ages. The gap between Black girls and girls was greatest for those girls aged 5-9.
” We don’t value Black girls and they’re dehumanized and also held responsible for the greater amount of sexual violence they suffered than girls who are white,” stated Rebecca Epstein (executive director of the center, one of the authors of the study.
For years, the treatment of girls at R. Kelly was seen as a joke rather than something to be proud of. This even happened during his child pornography trial, where an alleged video of him sexually abusing a young girl was displayed. In 2008. he was found not guilty.
Lisa Van Allen was the witness against Kelly in 2008, and said in an interview that Tuesday on ABC’s Good Morning America she almost wept when she heard of Monday’s verdict. This is exactly what I had been looking for in 2008,”, Ms. Van Allen stated. “So, I’d say the difference this year is that there’s strength in numbers. A lot of people came forward.”
Asked if she believed the accusers were initially not believed because they were Black women, Ms. Van Allen said, “Yes I do believe that that’s the main reason why.”
Music writer Jim DeRogatis couldn’t understand it. Ms. Van Allen and a friend were the first people to write about R. Kelly’s interaction with women in December 2000,. Mr. DeRogatis wrote on it for many years.
He thought that every time something was released, such as the video, it had to be it. That had to make a significant difference. It wasn’t every single time.
It was a moment that brought home to Mr. DeRogatis (a white middle-aged man) the inequity of young Black girls .”
And the women and girls he interviewed understood it. He said that the first thing he had heard was “Who is going to believe us?” R. Kelly continues to perform with others for many years. He even called himself the “Piet Piper”, but he claimed he did not know about the tale of the kidnapping musician.
Those who welcomed Monday’s conviction after weeks of troubling testimony, now carry the possibility that Mr. Kelly could spend decades behind bars, saying it was a testament the strength and perseverance Black women who, in particular in the recent years, have been the driving force in speaking out against Kelly and demanding his attention.
Tarana, the founder of the Me Too movement to end sexual abuse, mentioned the #MuteRKelly protest, which was started in 2017 by two Black women to pressure radio stations and other venues not to play his music.
The most public outrage followed the 2019 documentary “Surviving R. Kelly”, which was produced by dreamhampton (a Black woman).
Asked about Tuesday’s guilty verdict on CBS This Morning, Ms. hampton stated, “You know what, I believe this means that Black women survivors can be heard.” “Surviving R. Kelly” was produced by dream hampton, a Black woman. It was Black women who decided, ‘We are not going to let this fall on deaf ears.’ It was Black women who decided, ‘If nobody else is going to care, we’re going to care for Black women and girls in our community.'”
This story was reported by The Associated Press. This report was contributed by Gary Hamilton, an AP journalist.