R. Kelly Kicked Off Festival Lineup for Sexual Assault Accusations & He Doesn't Bat an Eye
It's taken 15 years for the numerous R. Kelly rape accusations to really affect pop culture, but now they're finally hitting where it hurts. The Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus, Ohio has taken the R&B singer off their roster after the community and other musicians performing in the festival voiced concern over Kelly's past history of sexual violence.
First, local band Damn the Witch Siren withdrew from the festival after the announcement that Kelly would be headlining. “We had a lot of deliberation,” said vocalist Krista Kathleen Botjer. “Do we want to go and support local artists and represent Columbus, or do we bail because we disagree with their choice?” Fellow Columbus band Saintseneca also dropped out of the festival, citing Kelly's appearance at the festival as a reason for their departure. “We feel his selection as a performer ignores his very serious allegations of sexual violence and assault," the band said in an online statement. "We feel it is an affront to all survivors, who are already often overlooked and forgotten in our society." The band said they planned to organize an event the same weekend with all proceeds going to sexual assault survivors.
At the time, the festival continued to defend Kelly's appearance. “R. Kelly may not be a good person, but he is a national artist people want to hear,” said festival co-founder Bret Adams. “You should respect the art, not the artist.” But when Kelly's name on the bill finally caused Columbus public radio station WCBE pulled their sponsorship, the festival changed their tune, and they finally pulled R. Kelly from the festival. “We wanted to make sure we heard the Columbus listeners ... to make a statement and support the city we live in," said festival spokeswoman Melissa Dickson.
As for R. Kelly? He doesn't seem to be too concerned. His publicist released a statement: "R. Kelly is sorry to disappoint his fans but looks forward to seeing them in the near future during one of his upcoming tours.”
The festival may be small, but the message is big. The sexual violence allegations against Kelly resurfaced after former Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim Derogatis, who originally broke the stories, protested Kelly headlining the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago last summer on Twitter. The questions Derogatis raised ultimately weren't enough to pull Kelly from the festival. But now that he has finally been pulled from a festival, albeit a local one, it sends a clear message. It does matter who a festival chooses to associate with. It's a clear endorsement of the artist. And how much sending that message matters to festival organizers depends on how much they care about all those attending the festival. Hopefully, next time people speak up, it'll take less than losing sponsorships to get the attention of festival organizers.