DIG Magazine published the following essay in their Feb. 5, 2014 issue. The essay’s author, Donney Rose, is a Baton Rouge native, 14-year spoken word veteran of the local poetry scene, and youth development worker with Forward Arts.
We at STAR thank Donney Rose for authoring this piece and DIG Magazine for publishing it. Rose will be performing an evening of spoken word poetry this Friday, Feb. 21 at Quarters at 8pm. He also hosts the weekly Eclectic Truth Poetry Slam and Open Mic, which takes place every Tuesday evening at Le Bons Temps Bar & Grill.
By a show of hands, how many of you out there would welcomingly embrace and open up your home to a known sexual predator? How many of you would allow said predator to have access, by way of giving them your own key? If you answered with a definitive “hell no” then you might want to ask the city of Baton Rouge why a member of the Metro Council symbolically offered R&B icon/known sexual deviant, R. Kelly, a key to the city after his performance last year at the Baton Rouge River Center.
Councilwoman Denise Marcelle was quoted by a blog – cameronjamesmind.wordpress.com – last year saying, “R. Kelly is an artist whose music brings generations together and we thought this would be a great way for the city to thank him for coming and give us the opportunity to congratulate him for all he has done.”
Thank him and congratulate him for all he has done. Let that last part sink in for a second.
Robert Kelly is coming to town again on Feb. 13 at the Baton Rouge River Center, just in time for Valentine’s Day. He will no doubt play again to a sold out crowd. The self-proclaimed “King of R&B” has enjoyed a 20-plus year career of making music that has ranged from inspirational/uplifting (“I Believe I Can Fly”, “He Saved Me”) to bedroom raunchy (“Sex Me”, “Bump N Grind”, “Marry the Pussy”).
He has been hailed a genius by some and has written or co-written some of the biggest records of all time for other artists. R. Kelly also has a record of sexual predation that dates back to the beginning of his career. Many of us are aware of the now-infamous child pornography sex tape that showed Kelly urinating on an underage girl, among other things. Many of us are also aware of his alleged marriage to late R&B star Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was well into his 20s.
What many of us don’t necessarily know is that these were not isolated incidents; that R. Kelly allegedly has an extensive history of having sexual relationships with underage girls – so much so that one of his former managers resigned from working with him, stating he believed Kelly needed psychiatric help “due to his proclivity toward pursuing underage girls”.
Chicago Sun-Times music journalist Jason DeRogatis originally broke the story of Kelly’s sexual predation a little more than 15 years ago, after the Sun-Times office received an anonymous fax that Kelly had been under investigation from Chicago Police’s sex crimes unit for nearly two years. It was alleged that Kelly would visit his high school alma mater, Kenwood Academy, and pick up 14- and 15-year-old girls – students of a renowned gospel choir instructor – that were enamored by his fame.
According to reports, one of Kelly’s perverse fetishes was to have some of these young women engage in threesomes with him. In one lawsuit filed against him, a young woman who was so emotionally scarred from the sexual relationship with Kelly slit her wrists in an attempt to kill herself. The ongoing narrative of the multitude of lawsuits filed against Kelly usually ends with him settling out of court with these girls and their families. Most of these young women came from impoverished, inner-city Chicago, so their pursuit of justice was often silenced by large dollar amounts that benefitted their families. Kelly was acquitted in the child pornography case and exonerated by way of payouts in other pending cases. Thus he has been able to enjoy his freedom and continue to sleep with teenage girls, void of consequences.
Many supporters of R. Kelly are prone to victim-blame or slut-shame the “fast” teenage girls who engaged in “consensual” sex with him. They separate his actions from his music. They justify purchasing concert tickets to see one of R&B’s most successful artists because his music makes them feel good. As a youth worker, mentor and native of Baton Rouge, my skin crawls at the idea of R. Kelly being so celebrated in my city that someone in a political office would give him a key to the city, and thousands of people would roar in applause.
A key to the city is a symbolic token of appreciation to esteemed visitors, a city’s way of honoring a trusted guest – one worthy of having the freedom to come and go as he/she pleases. What does it say about our city that we would be so embracing of a man that has unabashedly damaged so many lives? What does it say that we can’t buy tickets fast enough to welcome him back into our home? If the bodies of young women of color were not so disposable, R. Kelly would have known a warden’s key, locking him in a cell. Instead, he is free to serenade us into silence. I cannot stop the concert from taking place again this year, I can only hope for the sake of the young women in this city that we don’t fail them again by figuratively allowing a predator full access to this city.
There are simply not enough hit singles to justify it.