R&B singer R. Kelly has been accused of abusing young women and girls with apparent impunity for years. The majority of them were young Black women and Black girls.
After decades of escaping criminal responsibility for multiple allegations of misconduct with young women and children, R. Kelly, the R&B artist was eventually found guilty in New York on Monday, Sept. 27 in a sex trafficking trial, as NBC News reported. It only happened because of the efforts of Black women.
A jury of seven men and five women found Kelly guilty of all nine counts, including one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which bars transporting people across state lines “for any immoral purpose.” He has been in detention for much of the time since he was first arrested in 2019.
“Today’s guilty verdict forever brands R. Kelly as a predator, who used his fame and fortune to prey on the young, the vulnerable, and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification,” acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said in a statement.
“To the victims in this case, your voices were heard, and justice was finally served. We hope that today’s verdict brings some measure of comfort and closure to the victims,” Kasulis added.
As the verdict was announced in federal court in Brooklyn, Kelly wore a face mask beneath black-rimmed glasses and remained motionless with eyes downcast.
Kelly’s lawyer, Deveraux Cannick, told reporters that Kelly “didn’t say much” after the verdict was announced because “he was shocked.”
During the trial, several accusers testified in graphic detail about how Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.
According to the prosecutors in the trial, based on the charges of six people, Kelly was a serial sexual predator who abused young women, as well as underage girls and boys for more than two decades. In addition, he and his entourage ran a criminal enterprise that recruited and groomed victims for sex and arranged for them to travel to concerts and other events around the United States.
Lawyer Gerald Griggs, representing numerous of Kelly’s accusers and their families, praised his clients for their “immense strength” and thanked prosecutors.
“This is just the beginning. We’ve been fighting this battle since 2017, and many of the victims have been fighting this battle for years,” Griggs said. “Finally, their voices were heard.”
The fight to protect black women and girls continues. Unfortunately, due to intersectionality, or the systematic oppression of black women based on their race and gender, black women remain vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Indeed, black women should not be the forgotten survivors of sexual violence. When dealing with multiple systems such as criminal justice, education, and health care, black women face daily bias and institutionalized gendered racism. Many people are working hard to develop effective policies and practices to address these injustices.
According to AP News, Kalimah Johnson, executive director of the SASHA Center in Detroit, which provides help to survivors of sexual assault, said “Black women have been in this country for a long time and … our bodies were never ours to begin with.”
“No one allows us to be something worthy of protection,” she said. “A human that needs love, and sacredness.” It’s as if, she said, “there’s nothing sacred about a Black woman’s body.”
The development of the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse resulted in the #MuteRKelly social media campaign, boycotts of his records, and protests across the country.
The documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which appeared on Lifetime in 2019, also contained testimony from multiple accusers, intensified calls for him to face legal action.
Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too said “I think it says that you have to believe in the power of your own community, because this would not have happened if not for Black women staying the course,” Burke added “It was Black women who decided, ‘We are not going to let this fall on deaf ears.’ It was Black women who decided, ‘If nobody else is going to care, we’re going to care for Black women and girls in our community.’”