A proposed resolution from councilmembers-at-large Helen Gym and Blondell Reynolds Brown and Ninth District Councilmember Cherelle Parker would deny musician R. Kelly opportunities and platforms in Philadelphia.
The resolution, announced late last week, comes after the release of Lifetime’s six-part documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” an extensive analysis of sexual abuse allegations against the Chicago musician spanning almost three decades.
Dr. Monique Howard is the executive director of Philly’s Women Organized Against Rape and a proponent for the resolution. “These three council women who are staunch supporters of women’s rights and justice, particularly issues of sexual assault and sexual violence and are very supportive of my organization, are clearly saying that sexually predatory behaviors like R. Kelly’s, particularly toward adolescents will not be accepted in the city,” Howard says.
The resolution emphasizes that the three council members “believe survivors” and “believe Black girls.” The latter group have allegedly been targets for R. Kelly’s abuse for years.
According to a 2017 Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality study cited in the resolution, “Black girls are perceived to be more adult-like and less innocent than their white counterparts.”
Howard takes exception to the public perceptions often projected upon black girls by celebrities like Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper, who said of R. Kelly’s alleged victims, “Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the victim’s opinions because they were black women.”
“Chance the Rapper’s mindset is the same of many people, so when he said [his thoughts] out loud, they nodded their head,” Dr. Howard says. “So the lesson learned for me and for rape crisis organizations like WOAR is that we’ve got to believe our children. When they come forward, we have to create spaces where our children feel safe enough to tell that truth. We have to create language around sexual assault and sexual violence for our children so that they can tell their story.”
Dr. Howard also believes the resolution will have financial consequences for R. Kelly by effectively banning him from performing in Philadelphia. “[The council women] are strongly saying that that they do not support him coming in, having any concerts using venues here and they want the city to support them. I absolutely support the resolution as the executive director and appreciate these three council women coming forward in trying to move this resolution forward,” Howard adds.
The resolution’s approval would make a strong statement to sexual predators in Philadelphia that regardless of their celebrity or weath, their behavior will not be tolerated and has consequences.