Documentary filmmakers are governed by a drive to expose the truth.
Dream Hampton employed this drive in creating the documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” that brings together Kelly’s accusers and inner circle to detail the musicians life and the allegations of sexual abuse and pedophilia against R&B artist.
The documentary series provides an important platform for the survivors to share their stores of abuse against the R&B star. The series sheds light on a shocking and disturbing complicit system that enabled the abuse to continue and protected the troubled star from punishment. Criminal allegations made against the R&B singer aren’t new.
In 2002, Kelly was charged with 21 counts of child pornography related to his allegedly videotaping himself having sex with an unidentified underage girl. The case went to trial in 2008, but Kelly was acquitted on all charges.
The R&B artist is, however, finds himself in the spotlight again as the first installment of the documentary series and has re-sparked public outrage over the star. Speaking on the new allegations that are revealed in the series, Hampton, who serves as executive producer of the series, said,
“We have evidence of him raping underage girls, which is what sex with underage girls always is. There are whole systems in place: housing, runners, rules…There are women decades apart testifying to the kind of rules that they were subjected to living with this man, dealing with this man; there are hundreds, probably thousands of tapes made of them [by R. Kelly] without their permission. He’s also deeply manipulative; these are women who didn’t know each other, 20 years apart, and they’d be talking about being made to sign false confessions and he’d say, ‘This is my insurance that you don’t hurt me the way these other women have hurt me.’ So, I knew we were dealing with someone that we may not want to dismiss. He’s dangerous.”
The Lifetime series tells the story of through the experiences of his accusers, including the star’s ex-wife Andrea Kelly, who shared allegations of pedophilia and physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by the singer that span decades.
In addition, other survivors Asante McGee, Jerhonda Pace, Kitti Jones, Lisa Van Allen, and Lizette Martinez share their stories of abuse. #MeToo founder Tarana Burke makes an appearance, along with R&B singer Sparkle, R. Kelly’s brothers, and other people from Kelly’s inner circle.
Aaliyah was 12 when she met R. Kelly & passed away at 22. So in a 10 year span:
She signed a shady record deal with her uncle Barry (Blackground Records) was molested, pregnant & married R. Kelly at 15 & then passes at 22.
Her family feels that guilt. Tragic. #SurvivingRKelly
— Jerome Trammel (@MrJeromeTrammel) January 4, 2019
Sparkle detailed how Kelly groomed her niece when she was 12. Jovante Cunningham reveals in the documentary that Kelly made teenage girls perform sexual acts in public, and had sex with a teenage girl in the studio as other people watched.
Many celebrities, however, refused to speak and participate in the documentary. Hampton told the Detroit Free Press,
“It was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated with Kelly to come forward,”
According to Hampton, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and other former collaborators Céline Dion, Erykah Badu, Dave Chapelle, turned down interviews for the docu-series. Drummer of The Roots, Quest Love, also allegedly declined to participate. Hampton recalled the drummer saying to her,
“I would do anything for you but I can’t do this. It’s not because they support him, it’s because it’s so messy and muddy. It’s that turning away that has allowed this to go on.”
John Legend was the exception. Speaking on his participation in the project, he tweeted:
To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn't feel risky at all. I believe these women and don't give a fuck about protecting a serial child rapist. Easy decision.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 4, 2019
The explosive content of the LifeTime series literally incited violence (or a serious threat of it). Last month, the New York City premiere of the documentary series was canceled after an anonymous shooting threat was made to the venue.
Even before this incident, Hampton knew what she was getting herself into. Sexual assault cases are never easy to prove given the way our culture treats survivors who chose to come forward. This is especially the case for women of color and is especially the case when the perpetrator is a celebrity or public figure.
The docuseries will air in two more installments: Friday, January 4th at 9 p.m, and Saturday, January 5th at 9 p.m.