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#MuteRKelly: Why it may be time to stop giving the R&B legend chances

After years of roaming free, seemingly untouchable, it appears that Hollywood has finally woken up to who R. Kelly really is.

On April 30th, the Women of Color within the #TimesUp movement started a campaign calling for the cancellation of R. Kelly called #MuteRKelly.

Prominent Black entertainers like Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis and John Legend all made statements calling for “investigations and inquiries into the allegations of abuse made by women of color and their families for two decades now.”

The campaign is also putting pressure on powerful corporations including RCA Records, Ticketmaster, Apple Music and Spotify to cut ties with the R&B singer.

Since 1996, the pen behind Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” and “I Believe I Can Fly” has been consistent in the rumors he attracts, the settlements he’s paid, and the victims he’s denied. This is the man who’s sophomore album was called Age Aint Nothin’ But A Number and who married a 15-year-old illegally.

With years of repeated and documented behavior, one has to wonder how R. Kelly is just facing scrutiny when we’ve had the same knowledge we have today over the past decade.

Well, the answer is two-fold: Timing and social media.

Due to the current social climate and effectiveness of media campaigns like #TimeIsUp and #MeToo, it was only a matter of time before R. Kelly would come toppling down. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Louis C.K. all saw how past allegations could resurface and destroy your career. All it takes is dirt being dug up at the right time.

Prior to 2017, the only reminder we had of how horrible R. Kelly was Dave Chappelle’s parody in 2002 and the Boondocks R. Kelly episode in 2005. Of course, there was his child pornography case in 2008 that he beat, but that was almost a decade out of the public’s consciousness and, most importantly, during a time where social media didn’t have the power to end someone’s career like it does today.

Then in 2017 a groundbreaking BuzzFeed report detailing allegations from parents who claim R. Kelly is holding their daughters in a “cult”, broke. The allegations were corroborated by former members of R. Kelly’s inner circle which included details of abuse such as having to ask permission for food, to use the bathroom, and having phones and social media use controlled.

This momentous story led to more allegations as well as members of his inner circle coming forward to confirm, including women breaking nondisclosure agreements to air out the Grammy-winning artist.

In any other era, R. Kelly and his unparallel fame would shield him, and one can argue his stature all these years have, but these types of allegations, in this time, with the momentum of social justice being where it is, R.Kelly stands no chance.

The last straw leading up to April 30 and #MuteRKelly had to have been the new BBC documentary which aired this past March that alleges he abused a 14-year-old girl. The documentary struck a chord because R. Kelly lost his publicist, lawyer and assistant all in one day following its release.

Some critics say that R. Kelly has been able to walk freely and without shame, up until this point, because his victims have all been black women instead of the high profiled white women that brought down the careers of Kevin Spacey and Aziz Ansari.

How R. Kelly has been embraced until now backs that up, but I think it’s also a result of new accusations popping up in a time where there’s zero tolerance for high profiled abusers.  If it wasn’t for the bombshell BuzzFeed article and the revealing BBC documentary, R. Kelly might still be embraced.

Justice for the women who have fallen victim to R. Kelly is as long overdue as the voices in Hollywood that need to speak up against him. While it may have taken over a decade to make things uncomfortable for R. Kelly and his sponsors, now is a better time than ever.

He’s since had a show canceled in Chicago because of protest as well as a prominent Radio jockey Tom Joyner vowing to stop playing his music just this year.

Only time will tell what will be next for R. Kelly. What we can only hope for is that he is continually challenged on the accusations in every interview and public forum until definitive answers are given.

In response to #MuteRKelly, his team issued a statement calling the accusations nothing more than a witch hunt on an innocent black man. Still, nothing was said in front of a camera.

It may be time to #MuteRKelly until he finally decides to speak up himself.