This one is heavy.
Let me set the table in love and understanding and start by saying that by the time you are done reading this you will either appreciate the letter or not.
I am okay with that, as silence breaking can go either way in a community where silence has been a protector in some instances and not so much in others.
The skeptics Are Celebrating
because every negative stereotype they have for us has been validated and confirmed on social media as we “come” for each other about this issue.
Some of us have sided with the #MuteRKelly movement while others have vehemently pushed back and are protecting the monikered “King of R & B” as someone who has never been convicted of a crime and is thereby innocent of all accusations.
Our disagreements and engagement has been nasty, ugly, heart breaking and sad.
Throughout this current debate, there have been personal attacks and promises of law suits and the like. We have not come to terms at all, which is concerning. But, it’s cool as we all have a right to take whatever position we want about the issue.
As a Sexual Assault Therapist
for 27 years, founder of a sexual assault agency primarily serving black women and as a survivor of sexual assault from both women and men, family and strangers- I stand before you saying that the #MuteRKelly movement is about finally creating accountability for the past, the present and for safe guarding our future.
In my own personal sexual assaults, I’ve found: the healing journey is a lifetime process. I have held every person that I was able to hold accountable for what was done to me. I have integrated those traumatic experiences and live a full and happy life with support from many men, women and others. And I know I am loved.
My own healing includes self-care, professional help, integration and resolve. Healing also looks like breaking the silence, calling a thing a thing and holding perpetrators responsible for their behavior. It involves helping those that are feeling helpless, educating the disenfranchised and clueless. It is creating safe spaces for silence to be broken.
It is a process that I engage in daily for myself and others. This journey has been amazing!!! I am humbled and thankful and will maintain professionalism at all times and especially in social media (as this stuff never goes away and can come back and bite us all).
A google search of the leaders of this #MuteRKelly movement would reveal that we all are powerhouses in the work to help and protect black women and girls. But, that does not take away from the fact that we LOVE our brothers, sisters, children and put in work for our LGBTQI2S folks -as they are at most risk! (During this debate it has been down right scary the things hurled out there about our LGBTQI2S folks. It is disheartening.)
The dynamics of sexual violence in the black family is so deeply rooted in silence and victim blaming that it’s no surprise that we are being attacked by other black women for breaking the silence. In some of our circles, we have the same people who are protecting “the R” out here also protecting abusers in their own families. This is indeed a sad truth.
We are dynamic, complicated, accomplished deep thinkers and unapologetic culture changers. We also know that the sisters out here protecting this artist are dynamic too…in your own right. We see you. And we want you to understand rape culture, victim blaming, slavery and how racism, homophobia, heterosexism and self-hate has influenced your decision to rage against the #MuteRKelly movement.
Unfortunately, throughout my career-I have seen this first hand. I have had requests from black mothers for me to help their 13 year old child to stop having “consensual” sex with their men.
I have seen hospitals deliver babies for 10 and 11 year old girls in silence and with no follow up. I was a Rape Counselor and Advocate for the Detroit Police Department working with black women survivors whose rape kits (81% total of the 11,000) were not being processed and left on shelves to never be examined or prosecuted. Ignoring these rape kits contributed to rapists running amuck in the city I love-with their DNA in a box, only to be free to rape again and again.
I have had black folks tell me to my face that victims are at fault for rape and abuse. I have witnessed folks historically protect sexual predators who control and hurt victims by saying that the person being hurt “asked for it” in exchange for money, visibility or some other benefit.
Here’s My Ask:
I want the Black women who are fans of R Kelly and the segment of Black women, who side with perpetrators (absent of asking themselves critical questions) to explore the possibility that there are other dynamics at work here.
Manipulation, power and control, threats of harm and abuse, name calling, taking advantage of girls who want and love attention from older men are all a huge part of how victims are found and used, hurt and abused. Just because she is intrigued or willing or enamored by his celebrity or presence does not mean that a perpetrator should hurt and take advantage of her.
When will we hold folks accountable for harming Black women and girls? When will we protect Black women and girls instead of blaming them?
I want us to think these things through.
We Need Empathy
I have had victims in the work blame themselves because their loved ones blamed them first and foremost.
Victims second guess themselves, fear the lash out and thereby “take the trauma to their graves” and it is complicated even more so by those of us who add insult to injury when we blame them and never question the ones who are inflicting the harm.
Even if she is smiling, in the pictures/videos and gyrating or saying in interviews that she is fine– Ask yourself-How many times have you “faked the funk” in hopes that things would get better and they never did? Then you get out the situation. But, because your own family and friends have talked about you like a dog-you just suck it up and keep it moving?
How many times have we all done this for the sake of maintaining power structures and
stratification, power and control, false safety and fronts?
How long will we continue to believe and accept these negative stereotypes created to oppress black women since Reconstruction?
We intellectualize these images derived from slavery. We apply this hate with blind conviction and never ask ourselves why…
Black Women are worthy of love and protection, safety and appreciation, we deserve to be heard and believed.
All of us ain’t lying.
We are not any more sexual, sensual, freaky, stank, greedy, untrustworthy than anyone else! We are not Mammies, Jezebels, tragic mulattoes, sapphires or thots or hoes-naturally. We a
pply these notions to each other for the sake of not holding folks (and in particular talented artists, emcees, singers, family members, lovers, leaders and so-called cool folks) accountable.
We bring up these oppressive arguments and hold these tired positions to justify our actions that degrade black women, trans and otherwise and we repeat the hate that was passed down to us from generations as far back as the lessons given to us when we were enslaved.
With All that I Have Said, Here are Some Things I Would Like for Us to Consider:
- We are looking like clowns out here clowning each other.
- Victims/Survivors/Experiencers rarely lie about sexual assault.
- Complaints about this artist are widely known and established.
- The more you openly protect him, the more likely you will mark yourself as unsafe to disclose to because of your display of hostility towards other Black women and girls, thereby making those close to you silent and at risk.
- Your own silence of your own or another loved ones sexual victimization will not protect you.
- We can agree to disagree.
- This otherwise and so-called “talented” artist s not attracted to you, especially if you are middle aged, yet you are the main ones going in for someone who does not know or care that you even exist. And if he did, he would more than likely prefer you under his total control unable to make decisions for yourself-which is not safe.
- We are holding other men, women, folks and artists accountable. Right now we’re on #MuteRKelly because he touring and we don’t want him in our city.
- Black women are jewels and worthy of protection and respect-even if we out here disagreeing and clowning.
- We love you anyway.
Please Take Care of Yourselves, and Take Care of Us.
Our work requires that we take care of you…or any of your loved ones who have been sexually traumatized and silenced.
Think about it.
Break your own silence.
Challenge the construct.
And love yourselves first.
Loving yourself first is also a radical act of love for your sisters. When we degrade her (and each other) we are degrading ourselves, when we silence her we silence ourselves. Silence is where victimization grows…take care for now.
Founder and Executive Director
To get involved, email at MuteRKellyDetroit@gmail.com.