Philadelphia has a whole lot more to worry about than R. Kelly.
Don’t get me wrong. I stopped listening to the R&B singer’s music years ago, after I started hearing allegations of his relationships with underage girls.
But the numerous accusations of sex abuse lobbed against him aren’t an issue for Philly’s City Council. Kelly, whose legal name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, doesn’t live in Philly.
And it’s not as if he’s in the lineup for Made in America or the next Fourth of July concert.
Kelly, who’s been accused of all kinds of sexual misdeeds, isn’t the city’s problem.
Yet he was the focus of a resolution introduced by Councilwoman Helen Gym and passed unanimously last week.
Technically, there wasn’t anything wrong with it. It was on its face a compassionate gesture. It probably was the first time Council ever took up an issue specifically in defense of African American girls and women.
The resolution was a show of support for the grass-roots #MuteRKelly campaign, a nationwide effort that has been successfully pushing back against Kelly’s music career in light of two decades of sex-abuse allegations. (Kelly has repeatedly denied the allegations and in 2008 was found not guilty of child pornography after having been accused of making a sex tape with an underage girl.)
Earlier this week, Philly sex-abuse survivor Laquisha S. Anthony told me how empowering it was to stand before Council last Thursday and speak her truth. I’ve written about Anthony, an education and training specialist for Women Organized Against Rape, and can attest that she’s come a long way from being that college student too scared to tell anyone what had happened in that campus dorm room.
For that, I applaud Gym for introducing the resolution. If nothing else, it put the topic of sexual abuse and experiences of women like Anthony front and center.
But in the words of Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, "If we want to be true trailblazers, then it needs to expand beyond R. Kelly.”
In other words, Council should focus on local cases.
No need to pile onto R. Kelly’s multiplatinum drama: We’ve got plenty of he-said, she-said right here in Philly.
I’ve had several conversations recently with local female police officers complaining about sexual harassment either on the job or from another city worker. A local attorney also emailed me looking to tell her story. Last summer’s scathing grand jury report about widespread sex abuse in the Catholic Church was a jolt to our collective consciousness. I haven’t been to church since.
Meanwhile, a recent Polaris report has revealed that about 260 Pennsylvania massage parlors and 370 in New Jersey are fronts for human trafficking. Some reportedly operate in Center City.