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The History of the #MuteRKelly Movement

In July of 2017, the resurgence of new sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly prompted Atlanta Arts Administrator, Oronike Odeleye to take action and start a petition to get R. Kelly’s music off of Atlanta airwaves.

“I have been hearing about R. Kelly’s sexual abuse of young black women since I was in my teens.  Every few years more women come out with their stories. More images and videos surface.  More black girls are scarred for life just as they are coming into their womanhood and sexuality,” said Odeleye in an exclusive interview with theGrio.

“Someone had to stand up for Black women, and if I wasn’t willing to do my part—no matter how small—then I couldn’t continue to complain.  It’s time for us to end this man’s career. Enough is beyond enough,” the 38-year-old said.

Odeleye’s petition caught the eye of Kenyette Barnes, a seasoned social justice activist who herself is a survivor of child pornography. The two met for coffee and have been sisters in this fight ever since. 

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“We were outraged when we discovered that R. Kelly was scheduled to perform at a Fulton County owned facility in Atlanta,” recounted Odeleye. “As a local government owned venue, we were upset that Fulton County would let a well-documented sex offender profit from our tax dollars and expanded the petition to include demands that the concert be cancelled.  Kenyette coined the hashtag #MuteRKelly, and a nationwide movement was born.”

Since then, countless people and organizations across the nation have taken up the #MuteRKelly banner, organizing protests and calling for boycotts of his music.  

In addition to these protests, Barnes and Odeleye are also taking their fight to streaming platforms like Pandora and Tidal, which in today’s market, can be more effective than traditional radio broadcasts. They recently launched “ThumbItDown” in an effort to get R. Kelly’s music removed from these sites.

Odeleye paraphrases one of R. Kelly’s famous lyrics to sum up the mission behind #MuteRKelly.

“We will continue to disrupt, continue to demonstrate, continue to call him out, continue to raise awareness until hopefully one day soon, we can step in the name of justice at his trial.”

To view a brief outline of R. Kelly's history of sexual abuse, click here.

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