Brow Beat

Time’s Up Takes a Stand Against R. Kelly, Led by Women of Color

R. Kelly performs during The Buffet Tour at Allstate Arena on May 7, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.
R. Kelly.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

RCA Records, Ticketmaster, and Apple Music might want to take note: The Time’s Up movement has endorsed #MuteRKelly. The hashtag took off last year thanks to activists Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Barnes as part of a campaign asking corporations to boycott the musician. On Monday, members of Time’s Up’s Women of Color committee, including Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Shonda Rhimes, and Ava DuVernay, officially got on board:

In an open letter also published by the committee on Monday, they lay out a case against Kelly that includes his illegal marriage to an underage Aaliyah in 1994 and the child pornography charges against him in the 2000s, of which he was eventually acquitted. The letter also alludes to accusations that the musician has sexually manipulated and abused young women and the latest lawsuits against him. Kelly and his representatives have denied these allegations on multiple occasions. [Update, April 30, 5:43 p.m.: Kelly’s management has issued a new statement in response to the Time’s Up letter, calling Kelly “the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy.”]

The committee explicitly calls on Kelly’s label, RCA Records, as well as various concert venues and streaming services, to take action. “The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause,” the letter says. “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.”

Other celebrities have voiced their support for #MuteRKelly on social media, including at least one former member of Barack Obama’s staff.

Kelly was scheduled to perform at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on Sunday, but the performance was canceled. In a video posted to Twitter, Kelly said he had never heard of a concert being canceled because of “rumors,” apologizing to fans and suggesting he is considering legal action.

The entire open letter from the Time’s Up Women of Color committee, via the Root, is below:

To Our Fellow Women of Color:

We see you. We hear you. Because we are you.

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.

As women of color within Time’s Up, we recognize that we have a responsibility to help right this wrong. We intend to shine a bright light on our WOC sisters in need. It is our hope that we will never feel ignored or silenced ever again.

The recent court decision against Bill Cosby is one step toward addressing these ills, but it is just a start. 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.

To this end, today we join an existing online campaign called #MuteRKelly.

Over the past 25 years, the man known publicly as R. Kelly has sold 60 million albums, toured the globe repeatedly and accumulated hundreds of millions of plays on radio and streaming services.

During this time, he also …

Married a girl under 18 years of age;

Was sued by at least four women for sexual misconduct, statutory rape, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint and furnishing illegal drugs to a minor;

Was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography;Has faced allegations of sexual abuse and imprisonment of women under threats of violence and familial harm;

Together, we call on the following corporations and venues with ties to R. Kelly to join us and insist on safety and dignity for women of all kinds:

RCA Records: the venerable music label currently produces and distributes R. Kelly’s music;

Ticketmaster: the popular ticketing system is currently issuing tickets for R. Kelly’s show May 11;

Spotify and Apple Music: the popular streaming platforms currently monetizing R. Kelly’s music;

Greensboro Coliseum Complex: the North Carolina venue is currently hosting an R. Kelly concert May 11.

The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause. 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. And we declare with great vigilance and a united voice to anyone who wants to silence us: Their time is up.

Together, We Are Strong,

WOC | TIME’S UP