News

Anger over ‘planned’ R. Kelly concert

  • R. Kelly (File photograph)
  • R. Kelly at his child pornography trial ten years ago at which he was acquitted (File photograph)

Residents are vowing to stage a vociferous protest should a proposed concert featuring R&B star R. Kelly go ahead this year.

The artist, who has been at the centre of sexual-abuse controversies in the United States, is expected to perform at the National Stadium before the end of the year, according to the radio station Vibe 103.

Troy Brimmer, the owner of Inferno Lounge who was understood to have booked the star, has denied having any involvement. “My client categorically denies any attempt by him or his group to bring in R. Kelly,” his lawyer, Tyrone Quinn, said.

The multi-platinum R&B artist known for hits including Bump N’ Grind and I Believe I Can Fly has denied numerous accusations since 2000 of violent and sexually abusive behaviour towards women and teenagers.

In 2008, despite filmed evidence that prosecutors insist show him having sex with and urinating on a 13-year-old girl, he was acquitted of child pornography charges.

Last year, parents accused the artist of running an abusive “cult” while just this week The New York Times ran a lengthy editorial listing the accusations and highlighting growing movements against him, including a protest campaign called #MuteRKelly.

R. Kelly, born Robert Kelly, is not facing any criminal charges.

Since Vibe 103’s radio announcement yesterday, numerous people have taken to social media to denounce any decision to bring him here, with a view to persuading promoters to reconsider and to encourage a boycott of the concert should it go ahead.

Bermudian entrepreneur and activist Kristin White wrote an open letter to the Department of Immigration on Facebook citing a movement led by “powerful, black women”, including Grey’s Anatomy executive producer Shonda Rhimes and film director Ava DuVernay.

Ms White wrote: “Join this protest and disallow him to work on our island. If you grant permits, trust and believe the people of this island will let him know that he is most unwelcome.”

She added a link for people to write to the department.

#MuteRKelly was launched last summer and since then numerous R. Kelly concerts have been cancelled.

This week, the anti-sex abuse movement Time’s Up released an open letter calling on a boycott of the artist, using the #MuteRKelly hashtag.

Time’s Up wrote: “The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause. With that said, we demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly’s abuse made by women of colour and their families for over two decades now.”

Representatives for R. Kelly responded: “R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement. We understand criticising a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals — and in this case, it is unjust and off-target.”

The statement added that the campaign against the entertainer was “a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time. R. Kelly’s music is a part of American and African-American culture that should never — and will never — be silenced. Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it. We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.”

However, the growing movement against him in Bermuda will persist.

Bermudian Mikaela Ian Pearman, who also spoke out on social media against a concert being held, highlighting a series of accusations following R. Kelly from Chicago and Atlanta, told the Gazette: “If R. Kelly is allowed into the island, I guarantee women, and hopefully men, will join forces to loudly protest this event.

“In 2018, it is no longer acceptable to turn a blind eye to R. Kelly. We must stand together and show our disapproval to this vile man.”