Last weekend, while browsing through the various television stations, I came upon the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.” The name sounded familiar and the song “I Believe I Can Fly” popped into my mind. What could this documentary be about, I thought. I would soon find out.
According to the documentary, singer R. Kelly is a known abuser of women and young girls. Some of the scenes and testimonies in the documentary were hard to hear. My heart ached for the young girls — and even for Kelly’s wife — who also endured his nasty sickness. The documentary gave explicit details of Kelly’s actions; of how he has been consistent in ruining the lives of so many beautiful, black young girls.
As I watched and listened to the testimonies of Kelly’s manager and some other adults he surrounded himself with, it nearly blew my mind to know that these adults saw what was happening and did nothing to stop his rampage on young girls. It made me think that if the girls were white, would he have gotten away with his crimes? It also made me realize that to many people, dignity can be bought. Just flash a few dollar bills in front of them and you have them.
Still my question is, why is Kelly still walking around a free man, allowed to make sexually suggestive videotapes of his performances, as well as videotaping himself having sex with underage girls?
I could hardly believe the stories I heard from girls who have been affected by Kelly. What’s more, it was hard for me to digest the fact that he had been acquitted of child pornography, in spite of the tapes of him actively indulging; tapes he allegedly made himself. Or that some parents still allowed their underage girls to be left alone in his company. It seems this is the age of a kind of “coming out” for girls and young boys who have been sexually assaulted by grown men — men who are rich and famous.
When Kelly first recorded the song “I Believe I Can Fly,” it became a sort of anthem for our youth, especially our black youth. The song carried a powerful message. Many young people needed to be inspired; they seemed to need to be uplifted from the many issues in our society that often become putdowns and elements to foster low self-esteem. I was caught up in the song’s message, so much so that when it first came out, I had one of the youngsters at my church sing it at our Grad Day services that year. It is a song about faith and hope and believing in yourself, and therefore a perfect, soul-lifting song.
It is hard to believe that a man who could sing the lyrics of that song with such passion would do the things that Kelly is accused of. Perhaps some of you who are reading this column today will say, “he was acquitted” of any wrongdoing. But to quote my late mom — “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” And what I saw in the “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary is not just a small fire around the entertainer; it is a gigantic blaze that is out of control, killing off the childhood of countless of young girls. It is a fire that decent-thinking citizens must fight as hard as the first responders fought the California fires.
Kelly must be stopped. We must not allow him to ruin another young life. Decent-thinking people can no longer look the other way, while Kelly is free to keep on hurting. Parents must take back the control over their minor children’s lives. In the documentary, one mother admitted that she was afraid her daughter would be angry if she didn’t let her go to Kelly’s studio, supposedly on the promise of a record deal. The girl’s parents say they’ve lost her to Kelly. They haven’t seen their child in years.
Another mom said she tried to see her daughter, who was in a hotel room with more of Kelly’s supposedly young “sex slaves.” The mother got a manager to take her to the room where her daughter was. She saw her daughter for a few minutes in the doorway of a hotel room. The daughter acted like all was well. But later in a phone call from the room to her mother, she “cried like a little girl,” her mother said.
Kelly’s own wife spoke of how she was abused, sent from their home in the middle of the night to another city when she was eight months pregnant. Guarded day and night, she wasn’t even allowed her weekly doctor’s appointments.
There were tearful testimonies from girls who said they first got involved with Kelly when they were only 14. They told heartbreaking stories of how Kelly would force them to go hungry for as many as three days at a time and how they even had to ask permission to go to the bathroom.
R. Kelly, your cover is blown. We know who you are and what you are doing. It’s just a matter of time before your kingdom falls. As a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, it can’t be too soon for me.
Miami Oratorio Society
Rehearsals for the Miami Oratorio Society have resumed. The choir is getting ready for its annual Black History Month concerts. The first will be Feb. 9 at the North Dade Regional Library, 2455 NW 183rd St., Miami Gardens.
The society is made up of singers from throughout Broward and Dade counties, and is open to auditioning new members. If you are a singer who enjoys singing the classics, contact Judy Feldman at 305-610-0500 for more information. The society is directed by Andrew Anderson.
Miami Symphony Orchestra
The Miami Symphony Orchestra, celebrating its 30th season, will present the works of Wagner, Von Suppe, Brahms, Shostakovich and Johann Strauss Jr. — with a Latin touch — in a concert at 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall.
The orchestra is comprised of 80 musicians, selected from around the world. Tickets are $35 to $135. For more information call the orchestra office at 305-275-5666.