The internet erupted Monday when Time's Up joined the "Mute R. Kelly" campaign and demanded a boycott of the musician. Claims against the singer and producer resurfaced last summer when three women came forward claiming Kelly was running an abusive cult out of his Georgia home (Kelly denied this claim through his lawyer). A statement released by Time's Up and myriad #MuteRKelly tweets calling for the singer to be held responsible for the alleged abuse have reignited the protest against him.
"For too long, our community has ignored our pain," the Time's Up Women of Color committee wrote in an open letter published on The Root. "The pain we bear is a burden that too many women of color have had to bear for centuries. The wounds run deep."
Much of the discussion around Kelly's alleged abuse centers around the fact that his alleged victims were predominantly women of color. As the #MeToo movement has helped bring down powerful men in the entertainment industry accused of sexual misconduct such as Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, Kelly's career hasn't been hindered by decades of allegations.
A representative of the musician released a statement to Buzzfeed, saying that the boycott and criticism was akin to being "lynched." "R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement," they said, "We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals — and in this case, it is unjust and off-target."
#MuteRKelly Is Insisting On The Safety & Dignity Of All Women
Women of color who work in film, television and theater called on the music industry to cut ties with Kelly. The group's open letter notes that Bill Cosby's prosecution for sexual assault is "one step toward addressing these ills, but it is just a start."
Kelly Has Been Accused Of Abuse Since 1994
Allegations against Kelly first surfaced in 1994, when he married the 15-year-old singer Aaliyah at the age of 27. The marriage was annulled the following year because Aaliyah had claimed she was 18 on the marriage certificate.
In 1996, Kelly was sued for personal injuries and emotional distress by Tiffany Hawkins. She alleged in court documents that they began having sex when she was 15 and he was 24. The Chicago Sun Times reported that the case was settled in 1998 for $250,000. Kelly's publicist at the time said she had "no knowledge" of the case.
Additional allegations of abuse continued into 2017, when Buzzfeed reported that Kelly was keeping young women against their will in his Georgia home. Kelly's lawyer issued a statement that read: "Mr Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name."
#MuteRKelly Is Focused On Protecting Black Women & Girls
"#MuteRKelly is about Black women and girls who are first to be disrespected and last to be protected against sexual violence," journalist and activist George M. Johnson wrote on Twitter.
Why Did #MuteRKelly Take So Long?
Comedian Kathy Griffin wrote that it took so long to bring attention to the claims of sexual abuse because Kelly's alleged victims were women of color.
"America Doesn't Listen To Black Women & Girls"
Although the #MuteRKelly campaign is calling for music corporations and venues to cut ties with Kelly, some are calling for other musicians to back the cause as well.
The #MuteRKelly Protest Wants An Investigation
Time's Up Women of Color coalition is also calling for investigations into the allegations against Kelly. "The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause," the committee's letter read.
"This Isn’t An Either-Or Proposition"
While the downfalls of other powerful men may have inspired the renewed #MuteRKelly campaign, the protest is focused only on Kelly. It's entirely possible for people to call for investigations into alleged sexual misconduct by multiple men at once.
"Do It Now"
No matter how long it took, those advocating to #MuteRKelly say it needs to happen now.
Kelly's Alleged Victims Deserve Justice
Calls to investigate Kelly are centered around ending his abuse, but also bringing closure and justice to his past alleged victims.
#MuteRKelly tweets sent the message that it's high time for the music industry to cut ties with the singer.