R. Kelly Is Off The Playlist (AKA Surviving R. Kelly AKA That Was Needed)

Monday, January 14, 2019

The relationship someone has with music and film, the arts - and themselves and their lives - it can be complicated. It's personal. One of the questions brought up early in literature is whether you should disassociate the author's personal life - know nothing about them - before reading their works. That this will influence you and how you see them.

It permeates outside the sphere of literature as well.

In this case--specific to the music of R. Kelly, or for instance in the case of Woody Allen in film, I don't think you can. I don't think those two questions are quantitatively the same.

One just holds more weight than the other.

Watching "Surviving R. Kelly"--I just can't forget about the person, and only live with the artist. I can't.

And I've been guilty of using the "Well...I don't really listen to him anymore, it's just those old 'classics'. And I never watched the film, I heard both parties said it wasn't them." and I think like others in a lot of communities--and thinking about the relationship to the projects, people, the films, the churches, the pop culture--we did turn a blind eye at worst, or at best claimed not having all the knowledge giving benefit of the doubt, and maybe at times saying "Trying to bring another man of color down..."

And that could be steeped in culture, community, faith, race, structures that already existed because of all of them combined. Listening to all the interviews in "Surviving R. Kelly" you can draw the lines and connect the points.

It's that much harder--and I'll say impossible, to refute anything as rumor or conjecture.

I just can't have it.

And it is complicated--those are some songs from the soundtrack of my and many other people's lives...when life is good you hold on to all of it because you don't know if it happens again. You don't know what the next day holds. So you keep a piece of that memory. That vibe. Because it may soothe you later on.

But when it really comes down to it--should that take precedence?

In the end, I should be able to choose the safety and well being of Black Girls and Black Women easily over the songs of R. Kelly.

I should be able to say no to a system that in some ways values the lives of Women of Color as less then those of White Women.

And there're other songs.

Other memories.

Just like there are other movies and other films to take my time versus a Woody Allen movie, there are other songs to take my time other than R. Kelly's.

"Surviving R. Kelly" was needed. It shed light on so much that someone like myself didn't know (and I say that in a somber way because I still knew enough). I didn't know he hung out at high schools and malls like that. I didn't know he was even married or that he had kids. Or what his wife went through. Or that the girl in the video was that young (I thought she was older/of age when it all happened and I didn't follow everything at those times--at least that's my memory now). Or that to this day he's still a predator, legal or not. All of these stories, all of these conversations, it's almost so mind boggling how truly long it has been able to go on for (and is still going on in different permutations)--but that's also what the documentary did--it delved into the deep relationships we have with music and art, those who make it, and how it affects us on a very personal level and the reasons "why".

I wish I had come to this conclusion earlier.

That somehow I would have paid more attention, that I didn't gloss over the court cases.

That I didn't try to X out the bad with the good and give benefit of the doubt, thereby sanctioning his actions for a good vibe--even though there's more to that statement, when boiled down that's what it is.

That I didn't give myself excuses.

But I am here now and I think that's important, and I think it's important as an Asian American POC that if I think about other stands I take--how can I not stand where I am now?