Surviving R. Kelly: It's All Out Now, So What’s Next?
By: Deveney Marshall
When the Surviving R. Kelly documentary premiered two weeks ago, it seemed like everyone all around the world was watching. Social media timelines were fled with commentary surrounding the docu-series. Most people were ready to cancel R. Kelly’s entire legacy after hearing the horrific details of how the victims were treated by the artist. However, there were still some people who kept their allegiance to the artist and decided after one glance the victims’ stories were all fabricated lies.
In an attempt to change the naysayers’ minds, Black women from all of the world began to share their stories of manipulation, molestation, and rape. They spoke on how they were often not believed about their tragedies as well — and if they were believed, they were met with remarks which blamed them for the actions of men and boys.
I was taken aback by the number of Black women whom all had stories of sexual assault, but I was even more shocked to learn many had been assaulted before they were even pre-teens. I couldn’t begin to imagine the trauma a situation like sexual assault does to a person’s mental state but to be met with criticism after dealing with an experience such as it, unfathomable.
Once the many stories of Black women were displayed all over social media, a dialogue emerged centering the lack of protection for the livelihoods of Black girls and women. It’s no secret Black girls and women lives don’t hold the same value as their male counterparts, but once this documentary debuted and discussions ensued, it became very clear we have a place and it is an expendable one. Unfortunately, when it comes to preserving the livelihoods of Black boys and men we don’t hold any value and all of the scarcity people claim we have becomes non-existent. Something that’s not new to us Black women.
Most Black women are very aware of how they’re collectively viewed within and outside of the community — but when their misfortunes are expressed they’re met with words of deflection and excuse. It’s tiring, frustrating, and draining, and truthfully, after a while causes us to stop speaking up on our experiences altogether. However, there was something different about this dialogue. Black women continued to speak their truths, which empowered other Black women to do the same. It was almost as if Twitter became this grand stage for healing and acknowledgment for Black women.
Before I knew it the open dialogue then turned into Black men acknowledging the many ways they have harmed Black women. Unlike other Twitter discussions between Black men and women, accountability was more present than I’d ever seen it before. A cultural shift was taking place, and it appeared as if we were finally taking steps towards the right direction.
Dream Hampton, the filmmaker of the Surviving R. Kelly documentary, expressed it was not only her intentions to tell the accounts of the many victims of R. Kelly, but to help the Black community as a whole, and push us to a place where we couldn't ignore the realities several Black girls and women face daily. It was apparent her vision was larger than bringing a horrible man down, this docu-series was meant to give a voice to the voiceless. Dream Hampton’s wish was to assist in breaking the cycle and generational curse of sacrificing the livelihoods of Black women for the betterment of the Black community — and from what I'd seen thus far, she had successfully done this.
So I pose the question what’s next? What will happen now since everything is out there and we can no longer brush the abuse many Black women face under the rug? Will the majority of the Black community begin to love and protect Black women as they claim to? Or, will this become another case of yesterday’s news? I’m not sure — but my hope is, the cultural shift I've seen on social media these past few weeks continues to create the shift our community desperately needs.
*Deveney Marshall is a New Orleans-based filmmaker, actress, and freelance writer. She runs the lifestyle & beauty website thedevandthecity.com. Follow her thoughts & life on twitter and IG: @devandthecity