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Recap: Surviving R. Kelly. Episodes 3 & 4

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 3 – The Sex Tape Scandal & Episode 4 - People vs. R. Kelly

In the second installment of the 3-part series, Surviving R. Kelly, the directors drive home the reoccurring themes of domestic violence, child sexual abuse and intra-community complicity. What becomes crystallized through the intersection of these themes is the denigration, the wholesale abandonment of black girls for the sake of a famous Black man’s talent and power. The directors do an excellent job of weaving together the testimonies of three different black women whose perspectives on R. Kelly are informed by their distinct relationships with him – be it professional, sexual, and/or intimate partner. Each of their perspectives is unique while hauntingly similar: they came face to face with the real R. Kelly – a physically abusive, emotionally manipulative child pornographer. From all three women we learn that his unquenchable desire for control and sex with juvenile girls motivated everything he did, how he moved in the world, and would ultimately lead him into a criminal trial.

From Episode 3 “The Sex Tape Scandal”, we learn the in-depth details of how journalists were given the incriminating video tape of R. Kelly sexually violating an under-aged girl in his Chicago studio. Lisa Van Allen, an outspoken survivor and a key witness in Kelly’s 2008 trial offered her eye-witness testimony at great personal cost. But she did so in defense of herself and other young black women just like her who were abused mercilessly by Kelly.

The tireless work of Jim DeRogotis is given only a mention, but it should be noted that DeRogotis, a music critic, has been one of the lone voices decrying Kelly’s behavior for two decades. Journalists at the Sun Times share the horror of watching the film, and how this filth compelled them to give the material to the Chicago Police Department. Other journalists and activists replayed for us how the video made them feel about R. Kelly and the young girl who was being used as no more than an object of his deranged predilections. Episode 3 bleeds into 4, both dealing with Kelly’s indictment on 21 counts of child pornography. Episode 4 focuses mostly on the trial itself and its aftermath.

The details of the trial, which had been washed away by the long-time lapse between his indictment in 2002 and the trial in 2008, were redeemed through the interviews and due diligence of the directors. We learned exactly how a sex-crazed pedophile caught in the act of sexually abusing and demeaning a young Black girl in the foulest ways possible – was able to avoid sentencing. The hardcore video shocked and appalled journalists who had not yet seen it. Unfortunately, we also learn the depth of anti-blackness and anti-woman slut-shaming that influenced the jurors’ decision to acquit. At one point, we hear one juror actually say: “I didn’t believe them. I just didn’t like the way they look, the way they dress.” What is important to note here, are the intense racial tensions between Black Americans, Whites and Latinos in Chicago. There is a deep mistrust between the racial groups that was not directly identified or discussed in the film – a point the directors should have explored further given the history of race in Chicago.

As the episode drew to a close, we are drawn into new stories of young women who are entangled with R. Kelly just months after his acquittal; both girls are 17 years old. What stands out the most in the final moments of the episode are the testimonies of the parents who are on a hunt for their children – their daughters who have gone missing; absconded by R. Kelly barely to be heard from and even more rarely to be seen again. Yet, we are encouraged by the tenacity of one mother who’s fight for her daughter is real and present. It appears to continue long after the series has been edited and set for air.

We will watch with bated breath to send love and support to her and all the parents who are fighting for their daughters to be brought home safely, out of the grips of the “pied piper”, the predator of R&B – R. Kelly. And we will remember we win when we center survivors and continue to fight for each other as Black women and girls

Join us for the conclusion of Surviving R. Kelly tonight at 9PM (EST)

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