Members of more than half a dozen protest groups descended on Sony Music’s headquarters Wednesday morning to demand the label drop R. Kelly in the wake of revelations in the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. The action from members of #MuteRKelly, Black Women’s Blueprint, Care2, Color of Change, CREDO, Girls for Gender Equity, NOW-NYC and UltraViolet outside the label’s Manhattan offices is slated to include the delivery of 217,394 signatures insisting the major label remove the singer from its roster, as well as the presentation of a “Record Label of Shame” award.
“Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly is an unignorable investigation into R. Kelly’s decades of alleged sexual abuse of young Black women and girls, and those in the music industry that have not only enabled him, but profited from him,” read a statement from the group announcing the “Rally to Protect Black Girls.” “R. Kelly has been able to continue to prey on vulnerable Black girls for so long because companies like RCA — his record label — provide him a revenue stream to maintain his sex trafficking operation and a veneer of public credibility. With the seriousness of these numerous allegations and their overwhelming credibility, it’s past time for RCA and their parent company, Sony, to take a stand and drop R. Kelly from their record label. No company should be profiting from a man who physically, mentally, and sexually abuses Black girls.”
At press time a spokesperson for Sony could not be reached for comment. To date, the label has made no official statement about the allegations against the singer and has not responded to the repeated calls that it drop him from his contract.
UltraViolet flew an aerial banner over RCA’s West Coast offices Friday that read “RCA/SONY: DROP SEXUAL PREDATOR R. KELLY.” Kelly has repeatedly denied allegations that he has preyed on young women, including claims that he has sexually, physically and emotionally abused women and that he is the mastermind of a “sex cult” that includes a number of young women in his orbit whose parents claim they are being held against their will.
The Lifetime doc has resulted in a number of artists speaking out against Kelly, with Lady Gaga and Chance the Rapper pulling their collaborations with the “Pied Piper of R&B” from streaming services. In addition, Kelly is reportedly facing eviction from his Chicago recording studio over unpaid bills and a woman who participated in the documentary, Faith Rodgers, claimed this week that a person identifying himself as Kelly warned her lawyer that if she pursued her lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse she would be “subjected to public opinion” with the release of details of her sexual history.
In addition, two Dallas radio stations have banned Kelly’s music and officials in the singer’s home state of Illinois refused a permit for a planned concert in Springfield in April because of security concerns following recent protests outside his Chicago studio.
Speakers at the rally included Joanne N. Smith, founder and president of Girls for Gender Equity; writer Jamilah Lemieux; Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, director of organizing for Color of Change; Sharaya Tindal, communications campaign manager for Black Women’s Blueprint; and Natalie Green, spokesperson and communications manager for UltraViolet. “We believe you because we know R. Kelly has been a predator for the last three decades,” said Smith.
“He’s been a pedophile and he’s gotten away with it because nobody in the mainstream cares about black women and girls. We’re here to say that as organizers, as people, as survivors, as people who love black women and girls, that we care about black women and girls. We’re also here to say that any person, business and institution and anyone witnessing his abusive power but chose to turn the other way when it comes to protecting black women…. Today, RCA, your number is called. You must be accountable to us as an accomplice to sexual and domestic violence. You’re accountable to our community and should not profit off the predation, exploitation and degradation of black women and girls. Now RCA, we read where you are quoted that you will not play anymore R. Kelly music. But we know that’s just a ploy to wait until this all dies down. This is never going to died down. We’re here and we’re never leaving until you drop R. Kelly.”
Among the chants heard during the protest: “Sony Music has no shame. They only care about profits and fame!,” “RCA take a stand. We won’t stop till Kelly’s banned!” and “RCA we’re here to stay! You must drop R. Kelly today!”
Check out images and video from the Sony protest.
— UltraViolet (@UltraViolet) January 16, 2019
— ColorOfChange.org (@ColorOfChange) January 16, 2019
Marc Schneider contributed to this report.
This article was originally published by Billboard.