Surviving R. Kelly, R. Kelly, Lifetime, Andrea Kelly, Aaliyah, sexual assault, Black women and girls
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R Kelly In Concert - Detroit, MI

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WARNING: This post includes spoilers from “Surviving R. Kelly”

This Thursday marked the debut of the explosive Lifetime series Surviving R. Kelly and as someone who watched all six episodes, I can say with absolute confidence that this eye-opening and disturbing documentary will force you to sit up and pay attention.

“Surviving R. Kelly,” whose executive producer is hop-hop expert and activist dream hampton, provides an in-depth look at the 25 years of sexual misconduct accusations against the “Pied Piper.” It includes the voices of his real-life alleged victims, parents of those who claim the singer has “kidnapped” and “brainwashed” their daughters and commentary from talking heads and experts such as #MeToo Movement creator Tarana Burke, #MuteKelly co-creator Oronike Odeleye and singer John Legend.

It also includes input from those who were once closest to the 51-year-old including two of his brothers, former wife Andrea Kelly, protegé Sparkle and even his former choir teacher from Chicago’s own Kenwood High School.

Each of these individuals’ powerful testimony adds layer after layer to this complex and nuanced cautionary tale of how a monster was created, coddled, encouraged and allowed to spread havoc on a generation of Black women and girls. And he did this all, while continuing to climb the charts, thanks to the love, support and denial from the Black community.

At times, “Surviving R. Kelly” can make you want to turn off the TV because it’s triggering, especially for those who have a history of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

But if you stomach the content of this 6-hour series, let us prepare you: Here are a range of emotions we predict you will experience while watching it.

Aaliyah File Photos

Source: J. Vespa / Getty

SHOCK: Listen. Unless you’ve been living in denial or under a rock since the early 90s, the sexual misconduct, pedophilia and rape accusations against R. Kelly shouldn’t be news to you. But regardless of what we thought we knew, “Surviving R. Kelly” definitely has a shock factor.




Perhaps it’s the visual aspect of the show, seeing all these people in his life come forward with their harrowing and disturbing stories. Or maybe it’s that prior to now, we’ve gotten a lot of this information in bits and pieces, spread out over decades and multiple publications. Now, for the first time, we’re seeing this horror story in one-sitting—and it’s incredibly overwhelming.

In addition, the shock comes from new information the show provides, including how a pregnancy scare prompted Aaliyah and R. Kelly to get married when she was only a teenager and how his own team played a role in procuring young girls for him.

DISGUST: As I watched the series, there was this constant pit in my stomach, because it was becoming more clear just how unhinged, calculated and perverted he had become over the years.

According to the documentary, not only did he have a lurid infatuation with taping himself having sex with underage girls, he also had a history of creating songs, some of his best hits, based on the inappropriate relationships he was having with minors. To think how much I loved “You Are Not Alone” and then to later discover that it was about a miscarriage that Lizzette Martinez, one of his teenage “girlfriends” had in the past.

You’ll probably also be revulsed when you watch his former personal assistant and manager Demetrius Smith admit to forging the singers’ marriage certificate to say Aaliyah was 18, instead of 15. Or the fact that despite Sparkle claiming she saw young girls hanging around in the studio and even witnessed his wife Andrea ask for permission to eat, she still introduced her 12-year-old niece to Kelly.

The same niece that ended up in the infamous tape.

And we can’t forget how R. Kelly’s own brother said on camera that liking younger girls was just a preference, not the big deal we’re making it out to be.

RAGE: One of the biggest takeaways from this documentary is that in spite of all the evidence of sexual misconduct and the witnesses who corroborated those crimes, R. Kelly continues to get away with it. Why?

Simple: We don’t value the lives and bodies of Black women and girls.

As a community we would rather uphold the legacy of a singer and Black male success in white America than hold him accountable for the alleged crimes he committed against the most vulnerable of our community.

We really see this dynamic play out in the third episode, which mainly focuses on R. Kelly’s 2008 child pornography trial. A trial where he was acquitted even though there were was a videotape of him allegedly urinating into a young girl’s mouth and engaging in multiple sex acts with a minor.

I literally saw red when they revealed that the singer’s lawyer had the trial postponed for nearly 6 years because that meant the then 14-year-old girl would now be 20, making it harder for the jury to see her as a young victim.

That, and seeing all the Black women that showed up for the trial supporting him, claiming this was nothing but a witch hunt and a plot to bring “good Black man” down by “lying gold diggers.”

Not to mention, you will be taken a back at just how many men interviewed admitted that they “knew something was going on” or weren’t “comfortable” with what they saw, but not once did they ever speak up or call the police.

The silence when it comes to acts committed against Black women and girls is deafening.

HEARTBREAK: After the rage lessens a bit, you will begin to experience some serious heartbreak, especially in episodes 4, 5 and 6 that focus on his alleged sex cult. Here, you are introduced to even more women who go into explicit detail about the alleged abuse, control and even starvation they endured while under the singer’s thumb.

We also delve into the stories of the mothers and fathers who haven’t seen their daughters in years because R. Kelly allegedly refuses to let them have contact with them. To watch these parents in tears begging their little girls to come home, throwing rocks at windows to see if their child is being held captive is incredibly hard to watch.

These are the stories we forget or don’t think about when we’re bumpin’ and grindin’ to his songs.

A SENSE OF URGENCY: Ultimately, “Surviving R. Kelly,” is a sobering reminder of what happens when we turn our backs on women and girls. Hopefully, this documentary will usher in a huge sense of urgency that forces you to finally protect them and hold alleged predators like Kelly responsible.

That change can be better educating yourself about consent, victim-blaming and sexual assault. Or speaking up when you hear folks make disparaging comments about rape survivors or spread dangerous myths about assault in our community. Or it can translate into donating to organizations like A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national non-profit that uses art to educate, inspire, and mobilize young people to end violence against girls and women.

Most importantly, when you see inappropriate behavior around you, step in and step up.

Remember: This entire R. Kelly tragedy happened on our watch, so let’s work together to ensure that this never happens ever again.




#SurvivingRKelly: Five Emotions You Probably Felt Watching The Lifetime Docuseries was originally published on

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18 thoughts on “#SurvivingRKelly: Five Emotions You Probably Felt Watching The Lifetime Docuseries

  1. -Some people may continue to support him but I really wish people would stop saying the Black community, as a whole, is supporting/protecting him. It’s simply not true.
    -There aren’t enough words to describe how I felt watching the documentary. The women in the video need to consult with an attorney to determine if anything can be done now and every adult who was there and aided in all of this need to be held accountable, right beside him.
    -There were several lawsuits against him and the people settled out of court for money. Maybe they thought nothing would happen to him or feared for their safety; I don’t know but they settled. Some of the women signed a non-disclosure agreement as well as something saying they were there willingly. These are partial reasons as to why it continues w/o consequences.
    -The allegations, rumors, whatever you want to call them have been out for years and reported on. Read one in particular dated 12/16/13 in the Village Voice by Jessica Hopper.

  2. No one is above the law and its not that R. Kelly is being given a pass. He was tried by a jury of his peers and found innocent and cannot be tried on the same charges. Don’t just place the spot light on R. Kelly, some of those mommies threw their daughters at him for the money. If new legitimate charges are brought against R. Kelly that’s one thing but for Black folks to become vigilantes is entirely different. How many of you wants to be muted and have your income dry up? I have known white bigots that have gone after blacks on their jobs and their income was muted. People stop this madness and let the authorities handle R. Kelly if he committed any crimes. All of a sudden everybody wants to be in the spot light for a big pay off. Why didn’t you go to the Police 18 years ago with your information? It did not have to be broadcast on television 18 years later.

  3. stephanie Jones on said:

    We need to stop supporting this pedophile, arrest him, put him under the jail. Parents of these girls needs to stop selling their soul for a few pieces of silver, to avoid testifying, He is a nasty dirty bastard that belongs in jail.

  4. I think this was a money thang. All involved knew exactly who R Kelly was, they said that they went to the trial, so unless your mind is gone y’all knew, and to the supposed ” Concerned Parents ” How yall gon play concerned now, y’all the ones let your kids be gone for days at a grown man’s house, yes R Kelly might have did what he did, but as a parent you co-signed, unless they just fast, hot, at any rate, it was about getting paid, and when he stopped here comes the B/S, and the wife what was all that fairness about she couldn’t even cry right, y’all wouldn’t send your kid to the Meyer home, so stop letting your child go to a grown ass man’s house

  5. Ebony Pryde on said:

    I am very disappointed with the Black community. We are again jumping on board to help White America take down one of our own.
    Yes, he did have a relationship with Aaliyah and married her. This young girl who as I know never said R. Kelly took advantage of her.
    The young girl from the video, same issue. Someone else showed the video, and if it was so clear, why not arrest him on the spot.
    All other are grown,and/or want money. His wife that had all the kids with him needs to think twice,. She dated him, married him, had many kids from him, and still wants to be called Ms. Kelly.
    There are still states in America that will allow a 14 year old to marry, and not more than 60 years ago it was acceptable and the norm to date and marry someone older. Hell, my grandfather was 21 when he met my g-mom and got her pregnancy at 14. Married her at 16 years old. Look around Black America, where are the White men on trial. Nit eating at the table of your enslaver.

    • Thelma Gilliam on said:

      You are so off base. White America is not bringing him down. He’s brought himself down. Trust me, if they wanted him they could have gotten him a long time ago. You are the reason that he is able to continue to prey on our young girls. Your eyes are wide shut.

  6. americanize on said:

    Whats all the fuss about,every black person in America knows about R Kelly for over 20yrs,I,m going to keep this simple,the reason R is not in jail is b/c not one female has press charges against R Kelly and when they had a chance,the girl who was peeed her parents excepted the bag,and she also excepted the bag,her parents said that’s not my daughter in the video.The parents of these girls are also responsible.

  7. Passing Through!! on said:

    What’s even more disturbing is all of his handlers, body guards, and employees who assisted him in his sick fetish for baby girls. What about the guy who forged Aaliyah’s age to obtain a marriage certificate, the people who saw him having sex with her on the bus. And now since this documentary aired his music sales have went up, the radio stations are also playing him in heavy rotation. His fans are guilty too.

  8. WE ae the blame. WE stuck with this SICK rapist and left Kappernick to keep our “sundays teams.” Then wonder why we aren’t respected and have to remind others black lives matter. How about first WE matter and start with making our kids priority.

  9. Kimberly Sudberry on said:

    I say shame on the parents who knowingly allowed their daughters to attend his concerts all the while knowing what he was up to, his manager/assistant, his family, and to the CELEBRITIES WHO HAD TO HAVE KNOWEN. SHAME ON ALL OF YOU. IF IT WERE YOUR DAUGHTERS IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPORTANT.

  10. The African American community has given R. Kelly a free pass to be a damn PEDOPHILE.
    As long as WE purchase R. Kelly’s music–WE ARE CONDONING his DEVIATE behavior with underage young girls!!!!!!!!!!!

    THIS POS should be in JAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Ted Gravely on said:

    Men that give this criminal a pass have no respect for black women. None. You’re just as disgustingly sick as he is. I was young when this fool came out with trapped in the closet. My dad was like “what.” He forbade his music in our home. This is how pedophiles and other monsters get you; they have your stupid behind stepping in the name of love, and behind your back they are killing, stealing, and conniving. Black people throw him out on the streets like trash. This man isn’t worthy of being called “brother.” He should perform for #45. Those two are made for each other.

  12. I agree with the writer of this article, for some reason everyone seems to want to give him a pass and I don’t understand why he isn’t being picked up now.I don’t see color when it comes to babies being abused and these young girls are babies.

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