JOINING FORCES

Time’s Up Targets R. Kelly—He Calls It a ‘Public Lynching’

The collective that fights sexual harassment is joining forces with the #MuteRKelly movement. Kelly has been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Time’s Up, the Hollywood collective battling sexual harassment, announced on Monday that it’s joining forces with the #MuteRKelly movement—and demanding an investigation into sexual-misconduct claims leveled against the R&B singer.

“We join the call to #MuteRKelly and insist on the safety + dignity of all women,” Time’s Up said in a statement blasted out on social media. The cooperative called on corporations to cut ties with the 51-year-old singer and demanded “investigations” into Kelly, who has been accused of sexual misconduct for decades. Actresses, producers, and directors were to quick to show support for the initiative on social media.

In a letter addressed to fellow women of color, non-white members of Time’s Up wrote: “For too long, our community has ignored our pain. The pain we bear is a burden that too many women of color have had to bear for centuries. The wounds run deep.”

They called the recent verdict against Bill Cosby, who was found guilty last week of drugging and sexually assaulting former basketball player Andrea Constand, “one step toward addressing these ills”—but stressed that more needs to be done.

“We call on people everywhere to join with us to insist on a world in which women of all kinds can pursue their dreams free from sexual assault, abuse and predatory behavior,” they said.

The Time’s Up members urged R. Kelly’s label RCA Records, Spotify, Apple Music, Ticketmaster, and the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, where the singer has an upcoming show, to cut all ties with him.

“The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause,” the letter adds. “With that said, we demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly’s abuse made by women of color and their families for over two decades now.”

In July 2017, the #MuteRKelly campaign was co-founded by Kenyette Tish Barnes-Harper, the policy director of the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, and Oronike Odeleye, a managing director of the Creative Currents Artist Collaborative. Both are Georgia-based black women who, with the help of other organizers, spearheaded a grassroots effort to pressure venues to cancel Kelly’s concerts. They’ve also encouraged Spotify and similar companies to part ways with the singer.

Kelly’s representatives condemned the boycott in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Monday, calling it a “public lynching” of a black man who’s made significant contributions.

“R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement. We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals—and in this case, it is unjust and off-target,” the statement reads.

It claims that the organization “neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly’s support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts.”

Allegations against Kelly date all the way back to 1994, when he married late R&B singer Aaliyah, who was just 15 years old at the time. Andrea Lee, Kelly’s second wife, has said that Kelly subjected her to years of verbal and physical abuse. Then, in the early 2000s, multiple sex tapes leaked of Kelly allegedly having sex with—and urinating on—underage women. He was ultimately found not guilty of child pornography charges in 2008 after prosecutors said they were not able to determine if the women were underage.

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Just two weeks ago, a woman filed a criminal complaint against Kelly, accusing him of intentionally giving her herpes in Texas, where knowingly infecting someone with an STD can be considered assault. In the court filing, the woman said Kelly groomed her for years. Kelly’s camp, which has thinned after a lawyer and a long-time assistant severed ties with him, denied “all claims and allegations.”

The singer’s team members quit after the BBC ran a documentary detailing Kelly’s alleged sex cult, as previously reported by The Daily Beast. In R Kelly: Sex, Girls and Videotapes, one woman claimed Kelly made her crawl on the floor like an animal and perform oral sex. Women who said they escaped his “sex dungeons” in Chicago and Atlanta also alleged they were starved, beaten, and forced to wear track suits, as BuzzFeed initially reported.

Despite the mounting accusations, Kelly still tours frequently. But #MuteRKelly has succeeded in causing venues to cancel his concerts. Kelly’s Sunday performance at a Chicago music festival was canceled due to a petition from local activists, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The singer, whose next concert is scheduled for May 11 in Greensboro, North Carolina, apologized to his fans on Instagram and said he was going to “try to get to the bottom” of why his show was canceled on account of “rumors.”