From racism to rape, African American women have been in a pandemic of oppression since we were brought here on the slave ships. Some of it inflicted upon us from others – starting with our White “Masters” on plantations, and some of it inflicted on us by our own damn kind. For generations, the “body” of the Black woman has been abused as much as it was coveted, leaving us in a constant war, fighting for our rights and dignity.
We can read a dozen “self-help” books and attend a dozen more “women’s empowerment” conferences, but there will be no real justice until our voices are heard. And this week, it was.
For 30 years, Robert Kelly has been using his fame and fortune to rape and imprison young women and no one did anything to stop him. He got one slap on the wrist after another, even after videotapes surfaced — some showing him urinating on teen girls — and instead of penalizing the obvious offender, the country shamed the victims for no other reason than the fact that he was rich, and his victims were POOR BLACK WOMEN!
Say what you want in dispute, but I speak truth to the power that has now been proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case against R. Kelly — the “Pied Piper of R&B” — is NOT the typical case of an innocent Black man getting “set up” by lying (White) women. He is not an Emmett Till or the thousands of other Black men who have been wrongfully accused, incarcerated, or even killed by a racist system and lies perpetuated against our Black men. No, he capitalized off the sympathies of these past atrocities.
Kelly is a pedophile, a sex trafficker and misogynist who is as disgusting as the uncle at the family reunion that the older women in the family warn the younger women not to be around. “Don’t give him a hug when he calls you over.” “Don’t let him tickle you,” and “Don’t you dare sit on his lap!” Yes – he’s that guy.
And while this musical and lyrical genius has given us the music that will last for generations – he has caused hurt and pain that will undoubtedly scar the victims and their families for generations to come.
It only took a jury in New York about nine hours of deliberation before convicting the singer of all nine counts against him, including racketeering and eight violations of an anti-sex trafficking law known as the Mann Act.
The decision was more than a victory in the #MeToo movement, which is on a mission to hold influential and powerful men accountable for sexual misbehavior, it was the first high-profile trial where almost all of the accusers are Black women.
This is also the first time that R. Kelly was not hailed as a celebrity being unfairly targeted due to his wealth and status, but rather realized for what he was; a criminal mastermind who used his “yes men” and entourage to trap, abuse, manipulate and exploit a host of young women, girls and, according to testimony, even young boys.
The “I Believe I Can Fly” singer who apparently thought he was above the law sat frozen in the courtroom, wearing a navy-blue suit, glasses and a mask as the verdict was delivered. He was guilty, and his reign of terror was over.
The sheer magnitude of what Kelly was accused of doing is beyond belief, but incidents like the ones described in his case happen every day. Think about it; no one believed that three women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight — could be held captive in a Cleveland home for almost a decade, but it was indeed true until their neighbor Charles Ramsay rescued them that fateful day in 2013. Their rescue, and Mr. Ramsey’s animated description of it, went viral, and the women were finally free from a man who yielded power over them after literally snatching them off the streets when they were just teens and young adults.
Berry disappeared after her shift at a Burger King in April 2003, a day before her 17th birthday. A year later, DeJesus disappeared on her way home from school when she was 14 years old. Knight disappeared in August 2002, when she was 20 years old.
Their abductor, Ariel Castro, later committed suicide while being held in jail and left a note saying, “God loves you. For all are sinners, we all fall short of the glory of God. Christ is my saviour and yours!!”
Falling from grace is an understatement when it comes to Kelly, whose heinous acts were detailed in court.
Text messages from some of Kelly’s employees were presented in court showing that some of them were concerned about his treatment of women. There were also several video and audio recordings presented, showing Kelly violently assaulting a woman.
A slew of witnesses testified that the women and girls around Kelly were forced to abide by strict rules, including only calling Kelly “Daddy” and not being allowed to eat or use the bathroom without his permission.
If rules were broken, punishment was harsh and severe, with some describing brutal spankings or one woman sadly recounting being forced to smear feces on her face and eat it.
The floodgates were opened when those who’ve remained silent all these years – in favor of Kelly — began to share their stories.
Eight of his former employees; a doctor who treated him for herpes over more than a decade ago, and the minister who presided over his wedding to the late R&B singer Aaliyah – whom Kelly married when she was only 15 and he was 27.
One of his former tour managers testified that Kelly bribed a government employee to get a fake identification for Aaliyah so the wedding could go forward because he feared that she was pregnant, and he could be charged with statutory rape.
“The defendant’s victims aren’t groupies or gold diggers. They’re human beings,” Nadia Shihata, an assistant U.S. attorney, said at the end of the trial. “Daughters, sisters, some are now mothers. And their lives matter.”
The jury consisting of seven men and five women, agreed. Robert Sylvester Kelly, the Chicago hometown hero who rose from rags to riches, would have to pay for what he’s done to others.
“For many years, what happened in the defendant’s world stayed in the defendant’s world,” Elizabeth Geddes, another assistant U.S. attorney, said in her closing argument. “But no longer.”
And his victims and their families breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“This is the culmination of the movement of so many women who have been trying so long to have their voices heard,” said Oronike Odeleye, the co-founder of the #MuteRKelly campaign. “We have never had full ownership of our bodies. And we’re at a moment where Black women are no longer accepting that as the price of being Black and female in America.”