On a media call this afternoon, some of R. Kelly’s accusers featured in the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly are striking back at attempts to silence them.
Just last week, a Chicago-area man called into a NYC screening of Surviving R. Kelly, that was attended by Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Kelly and many of the other survivors featured in the docuseries, threatening to shoot up the screening. These survivors, family members of other victims and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, who appears in the docuseries, were all set to share their stories in a Q&A following the screening that was abruptly cut short by Lifetime for safety.
Though the NYPD has yet to release a name for the Chicago person of interest, Lifetime and Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Kelly have both blamed the infamous Chicagoan R. Kelly and his camp for the threat.
Today’s call was an opportunity for survivors Andrea Kelly, Lisa Van Allen and Lizette Martinez to speak out about the abuses they’ve suffered, including, as Burke told Shadow and Act, the attempt to re-traumatize them with the gun threats. Survivors Asante McGee, Jerhonda Pace and Kitti Jones, who were in attendance at the premiere, were not on today’s call.
“At the end of the day, they weren’t very smart, because you don’t put fire out with gasoline…this fire just burns longer, stronger,” Andrea Kelly said on the call of the gun threat perpetrator. “…Now, what you’ve done is you’ve heightened the curiosity of what is in this documentary and what truth you’re trying to bury. So I want to say thank you. Thank you because you brought me and my sisters closer together.”
Andrea, Martinez and Van Allen said the threat has only strengthened their resolve to tell the truth.
“We are a united front; the story needs to be told,” said Andrea. “We will not be scared, intimidated, shunned, dismantled, quieted–none of that is going to happen.”
Martinez added, “For me, it was just extremely disheartening and scary to say the least.” But the fact that someone broke the law calls attention to the survivors being on the right path, she said. “We’re standing together as survivors and we will not back down.”
As for why the gun threat occurred, Van Allen speculates:
“I feel like it is a last attempt at an act of desperation. I feel like it’s very similar to what I’ve already known and experienced from someone trying to keep us all quiet and trying to stay in control…You can’t control us, you won’t be in control of this,” said Van Allen. “We’re going to raise awareness for the girls who have gone through this, the girls who are there, as well as others of his victims. I feel like it was a sad thing that we didn’t finish watching it, but it will air, it will get out, the truth will be heard. I think they are really concerned with that.”
Andrea Kelly agreed.
“It’s sad…could you be more obvious?” said Andrea. “Of all the theaters on any night and there’s premieres happening every night of the week and you want us to believe that it was a coincidence? Not only was it desperate, it was dumb.”
Martinez also called on the media to keep information about the singer’s allegations at the forefront.
“I feel it’s important that the media keep these stories and the parents’ accounts of their daughters who are currently living with Robert Kelly and being abused by him,” she said. “I think these stories need to be told responsibly. I think due diligence needs to be done and not treat it as a tabloid story. If this was a person who was not a celebrity, I certainly believe they would be incarcerated.”
In addition to the Surviving R. Kelly docuseries, Lifetime and Color of Change have partnered to educate viewers on R. Kelly’s history and how people can help victims. Currently, Lifetime has the Stop Violence Against Women Public Affairs campaign, an Emmy-winning initiative that links together several outreach programs and national organizations to stop the cycle of gender-based violence. Color of Change has also created a petition to compel RCA Records, to drop R. Kelly from their roster.
Another way survivors and advocates are urging music consumers to help them in their fight against R. Kelly is to take part in the #MuteRKelly campaign. The campaign asks music consumers to not buy the singer’s songs or purchase tickets to his concerts. Van Allen said that for anyone who still wants to support R. Kelly, they should think about what that money actually funds.
“I would like to remind people that no one isn’t doubting that his music isn’t good and that he isn’t talented as far as his music goes. The reason why we say #MuteRKelly and not buy his records is because it’s the financial backing that’s allowing him to do this to these young women and to us when we were there,” she said. “If he didn’t have the income to do that, to be able to move around and have staff fly girls in and put them in hotels, pay for their meals…then he wouldn’t be able to do this. That’s why we tell his fans to mute his music, don’t pay for the concert ticket.”
Surviving R. Kelly, a three-part docuseries, will premiere Jan. 3 on Lifetime.