The Women of Color (WOC) group within the Time’s Up movement has published an open letter in support of a campaign that seeks justice for the alleged victims of R&B singer R Kelly, Billboard reports.
Citing the recent trial of Bill Cosby, who on 27 April was convicted of drugging and molesting a woman in 2004, WOC write: “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.”
The #MuteRKelly campaign calls on Kelly’s record label, Sony, and concert promoter, Live Nation, to sever ties with the musician: one #MuteRKelly petition has more than 65,300 signatures. Kelly, 51, has faced a number of allegations of abuse against young black women, including claims of imprisonment in an “abusive cult”. Kelly “unequivocally” denied the claims that he was holding women in a cult, with his lawyers saying he “will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name”.
The letter cites Kelly’s history of alleged impropriety, including his annulled marriage to the late R&B singer Aaliyah when she was 15 years old, lawsuits brought by “at least four women for sexual misconduct, statutory rape, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, and furnishing illegal drugs to a minor”; his indictment on 21 counts of child pornography, and ongoing allegations of “sexual abuse and imprisonment of women under threats of violence and familial harm”, as detailed in a BuzzFeed investigation in July 2017. Kelly was found acquitted of the child pornography charges in 2008, and has settled numerous lawsuits out of court while denying wrongdoing.
The group calls on RCA Records, Ticketmaster, Spotify and Apple Music and the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in North Carolina, which is due to host a concert by R Kelly on 11 May, to cut ties with the singer.
The letter concludes: “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.”
The letter is not signed by individual names, but WOC and Time’s Up. Women of colour involved in establishing Time’s Up in January 2018 include producer Shonda Rhimes, actors Rashida Jones, America Ferrara, Eva Longoria, Lena Waithe and Kerry Washington, and director Ava DuVernay.
On 29 April, Kelly was dropped from the lineup of the Love Jam concert, due to take place on 5 May at the University of Illinois in his hometown of Chicago. More than 1,300 students and staff at the university signed a petition demanding that the singer be prevented from performing at the college.
In March, BBC Three broadcast a documentary in which one of his alleged victims, Kitti Jones, claimed that the singer had groomed her and forced her to have sex with him and others at least 10 times in a “sex dungeon”, and that he had “trained” another girl since she was 14. “He calls them his pets,” Jones said. In mid-April, another woman filed a complaint with the Dallas police department alleging that Kelly had given her a sexually transmitted infection during an eight-month relationship that began when she was 19 years old. Kelly’s representatives told the BBC he would not be commenting on the allegations.
Kelly’s entertainment lawyer, Linda Mensch, recently confirmed to the BBC that she no longer represents the singer, but said her departure was not related to his social life. His executive assistant, Diane Copeland, also left his employ.