WARNING: This post includes spoilers from “Surviving R. Kelly”
Thursday marked the debut the of the explosive Lifetime series “Surviving R. Kelly” and as someone who watched all six episodes, I can say with absolute confidence that this eye-opening and disturbing documentary will force you to sit up and pay attention.
“Surviving R. Kelly,” whose executive producer is hop-hop expert and activist dream hampton, provides an in-depth look at the 25 years of sexual misconduct accusations against the “Pied Piper.” It includes the voices of his real-life alleged victims, parents of those who claim the singer has “kidnapped” and “brainwashed” their daughters and commentary from experts and colleagues such as #MeToo Movement creator Tarana Burke, #MuteKelly co-creator Oronike Odeleye and singer John Legend.
It also includes input from those who were once closest to the 51-year-old including two of his brothers, former wife Andrea Kelly, protegé Sparkle and former choir teacher from Chicago’s own Kenwood High School.
Each of these individuals’ powerful testimony adds layer after layer to this complex and nuanced cautionary tale of how a monster was created, coddled, encouraged and allowed to spread havoc on unsuspecting Black women and girls. And he did this all, while continuing to climb the charts, thanks to the love and denial from the Black community.
At times, “Surviving R. Kelly” can make you want to turn off the TV and trigger folks, especially those who have a history of sexual abuse. But if you stomach the content of this 6-hour series, here are a range of emotions we predict you will experience while watching it.
SHOCK: Listen. Unless you’ve been living in denial or under a rock since the early 90s, the sexual misconduct, pedophilia and rape accusations against R. Kelly shouldn’t be news to you. But regardless of what we thought we knew, “Surviving R. Kelly” definitely has a shock factor.
Perhaps it’s the visual aspect of the show, seeing all of these people in his life come forward with their stories. Or maybe it’s the fact that prior to now, we’ve gotten a lot of this information in bits and pieces, spread over decades and multiple publications. Now, for the first time, we’re seeing this story all at once and it’s feeling like an overwhelming horror film.
In addition, the shock also comes from new information, including how Aaliyah might have been pregnant and that’s why they ended up getting married, R. Kelly’s infatuation with taping himself while having sex and how his own team was procuring young girls for him in public settings.
DISGUST: As I watched the series, there was this constant pit in my stomach, because it was becoming more clear just how unhinged and callous he is.
One example of that is how R. Kelly had a history of creating songs, some of his best hits, based on the inappropriate relationships he was having with minors. To think how much I loved “You Are Not Alone” and then to later discover that it was about a miscarriage that Lizzette Martinez, one of his teenage “girlfriends” had in the past.
Or when his former personal assistant and manager Demetrius Smith admitted to forging the singer’s marriage certificate to say Aaliyah was 18, instead of 15. Or the fact that despite Sparkle claiming she saw young girls hanging around in the studio and saw his wife ask permission to eat, she still introduced her 12-year-old niece to Kelly.
Or how his own brother said on camera that liking younger girls was just a preference, no biggie.
RAGE: One of the biggest takeaways of this documentary is that fact that in spite of all of the evidence and witnesses, R. Kelly continues to get away with it, because essentially we just don’t value the lives and bodies of Black women and girls.
As a community we would rather uphold the legacy of a singer than hold him accountable for the alleged crimes he committed against the most vulnerable of our community. R. Kelly’s fame basically trump the law and our lives.
We really see this dynamic play out in the third episode, which mainly focuses on R. Kelly’s 2008 trial. A trial where he was acquitted despite videotapes of him allegedly urinating into a young girl’s mouth and engaging in multiple sex acts.
I was literally seeing red when they revealed that the singer’s lawyer had the trial postponed for nearly 6 years because that meant the then 14-year-old girl would now be 20, making it harder for the jury to see her as a young victim.
That, and seeing all of the Black women that showed up for the trial supporting him, claiming this was a witch hunt and a plot to bring “good Black man” down by “lying gold diggers.” Not to mention, just how many men interviewed admitted that they “knew something was going on” or weren’t “comfortable” with what they saw, yet they never once called the police or spoke up.
All of this will have you seeing red.
HEARTBREAK: After the rage lessens, you will begin to experience some heartbreak, especially in episodes 4, 5 and 6 that focus on his alleged sex cult. Here, you are introduced to more women who go into explicit detail about the alleged abuse, control and even starvation they endured while under the singer’s thumb.
We also delve into the stories of the mothers and fathers who haven’t seen their daughters in years because R. Kelly allegedly refuses to let them have contact with them. To watch these parents in tears begging their little girls to come home, throwing rocks on windows to if their child is being held captive is incredibly hard to watch.
A SENSE OF URGENCY: Ultimately, “Surviving R. Kelly,” is a sobering reminder of what happens when we throw away women and girls. Hopefully, that will usher in a huge sense of urgency that forces you to actually do something to protect our community and hold people like Kelly responsible.
That change can look like many things including educating yourself about consent, victim-blaming and sexual assault. Or speaking up when you hear folks make disparaging comments about rape survivors, spread dangerous myths about assault in our community and when you see inappropriate behavior around you. Or donating to groups like A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national non-profit that uses art to educate, inspire, and mobilize young people to end violence against girls and women.
This entire tragedy happened on our watch, let’s work together to ensure that this never happens again.
Tune in to the rest of Lifetime’s three-night, six-part Surviving R. Kelly docu-series on Friday (January 4) and Saturday (January 5) at 9 p.m. EST.
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#SurvivingRKelly: Five Emotions You’ll Experience Watching The New Lifetime Doc Series was originally published on hellobeautiful.com