Column: It’s time to stop sweeping stuff under the rug in the Black community


Photo by Peter Burkman on Unsplash

Micah Sanders, Editor-In-Chief

Growing up in a Black community and even in today’s society, the one phrase I always hear is “What happens in this house, stays in this house.” 

Though it may seem prideful to keep that dirty laundry under wraps and hidden to protect one’s image, it actually causes those traumatic and dark experiences to fester and grow into generational curses and patterns.  Doing wicked things while also being a celebrity in the spotlight never works as the spotlight will eventually catch up with the shadows and darkness exposing those hidden acts. These words reign especially true as the Me Too movement has caused a major shake-up in the world. 

Many well-established and highly praised celebrities such as R. Kelly have been accused of sexually assaulting and abusing countless people. Once the documentary named “Surviving R. Kelly” was released in 2019, some people in the Black community were shocked by the accusations and believed that those women were lying for fame. As the trial continues and more and more women testify, it seems as if the rhythm and blues singer has some really dark secrets “trapped in the closet.” 

Establishing his career based on sex appeal, R. Kelly became a household name in the Black community in the 1990s. When he became a producer for the late R&B singer Aaliyah, things started to take a turn for the worse. Aaliyah met R. Kelly when she was 14, and he was 26, and they spent several late nights together alone. A strange bond started to develop as Aaliyah was constantly seen in the media hanging out with R. Kelly and wearing the same clothes as if they were dating. Aaliyah’s debut album named “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” was the first red flag and then the couple got illegally married in 1996. At that time, nobody truly knew how old Aaliyah was, so they suspected that she was over 18. Some people may wonder where her parents were when all of this happened, and I honestly cannot provide that information. It is sad to see so many celebrity parents not being in the picture when their child is being taken advantage of. 

From the illegal and disturbing “bond” he had with Aaliyah to the explicit sex tape that circulated in 2001, R. Kelly and his wrongful acts have been hiding in plain sight all along. His behavior and reputation for having relationships with underage girls became a laughing stock, as it was featured in numerous TV shows, movies, and comedian stand-ups. I certainly remember “Boondocks” creating an entire episode dedicated to the infamous sex tape and making jokes regarding his actions with no accountability being taken. Songs like “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” and “It Seems Like You’re Ready,” literally speak about his grooming process and his mental state regarding his attraction toward underage girls. Why would someone allow this to happen for so long? It turns out that R. Kelly had numerous enablers that kept everything swept under the rug. 

According to The Associated Press, on September 20, 2021, a New York City jury had heard several women and two men who were in Kelly’s celebrity orbit tell the panel that he groomed them for unwanted sex and psychologically tormented them — mostly when they were teenagers — in episodes dating to the 1990s. Their accounts were backed at least in part by former Kelly employees whose own testimony suggested they were essentially paid off to look the other way or actively enable the recording artist. Countless times in the Black community do we hear similar stories where someone is being abused, and we just turn a blind eye. When do we step up and break the generational curses and speak out on the wrongdoings to create better environments and safe spaces for our children? 

It is really important to listen when someone speaks out. R. Kelly has been in and out of the courtroom since the early 2000s from numerous allegations and was never held accountable. For centuries, women, especially women of color, were always silenced and shamed for speaking out, and that has to change. We cannot allow predators to just walk around in society feeling invincible because they have the money and power to remain free of justice, whether that being in your neighborhood, your local community, or on your television screens. It is understandable to be enraged and sickened by these wicked acts and why the victim did not speak up sooner. Still, we as a community have to be more welcoming and inviting when it comes to these situations and not sweep everything under the rug. 

“For every Black woman who reports rape, at least 15 Black women do not report.” – The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community. 

For the Black community, I urge us to create those safe spaces, spark those important conversations, and break the historical trauma and patterns that stem from cultural silence so that we may hear fewer stories similar to R. Kelly. It is now more important than ever that our voices are heard. Let us be the vacuum that cleans all of the dirt and grime underneath the rug.