WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Black girls are surviving more than R. Kelly

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I watched dream hampton’s documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” in small doses. Actually, I haven’t finished it. I don’t know if I will.

Hearing young black women’s stories of being groomed for acts for which they were too young to consent triggered a level of anger and hurt that, left unchecked, could consume me. So, I hit the pause button to breathe, to make a cup of tea, to pace around the room and to thank God for overprotective parents and a husband whose heart’s desire is to build me instead of breaking me.

The accusations against R. Kelly have been swirling around for years. Even as I bopped to Aaliyah’s debut album, a teenage girl listening to another teenage girl’s music, there were rumors of a relationship and possible marriage between the R&B starlet and established crooner. Before I reached the age of consent myself, I knew he was a creep. I understood the documentary would be tough to watch. I was prepared for that evil.

But there was another evil that shook me and made me question folks I’ve known for years ­— the people who defended Kelly’s actions or excused them because of his musical ability. There were men who boldly said they committed the same acts, the same crimes. There were women who said they were “fast” in high school and made fully formed adult decisions, even though their brains and bodies lagged behind.

I’ve been liking, loving and laughing at their various posts in this modern era. Back in the day, I talked too loudly and too much with these girls in chorus or gym class and sat in the cars or living rooms of these guys because a friend or family member said they were “all right.”

More than 20 years later, a lot of us are parents of teenagers, and this brokeness is making its way into another generation. Kelly is 52, but the girls are still in their teens.

Abused women long ago labeled as “fast-tailed girls” look at their own teenage daughters, and while understanding how much their daughters don’t know about the world, can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that, as teens, they also didn’t know about the world and weren’t adult enough to consent to adult actions.

Men are proudly proclaiming to be predators without accepting the responsibility of contributing to the pervasive brokenness in the women around them.

And while I know that abuse does not account for gender, race or socioeconomic status, as a black woman it is particularly painful to know that people are so insensitive to the fact that black girls in our families, in our schools and in our town are walking around soulsick and unprotected, not believed and easily dismissed.

I also find it disheartening that even though the documentary aired on a major mainstream cable network, there has been little to no discussion among white people, including those who had very strong opinions in the wake of last year’s burgeoning #MeToo movement, about the pain inflicted on these black girls. If we’re not standing up for all women, we’re not standing up for any of them.

I don’t have many answers other than what was taught to me by grandmothers who fervently prayed for my safety and security — that we love one another as Christ loved the church and that we bear one another’s burdens while protecting our bodies and souls. I am here if anyone needs to talk, and I will direct you to professionals who can help begin the process of healing.

From one black girl to another, I’ve got you.

LaMonique Hamilton Barnes is a reporter and copy editor for The Wilson Times. She blogs about arts and culture at iamlamonique.com.

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