I write this from the position of a father. The father of a black female teenager. A young woman who fits the profile of countless R.Kelly victims. An example of the myriad of women thrown away by the media and our nation. I look at her and shiver at the thought of searching for her and not knowing where she is. Heart racing, hands shaking, while my spouse spills tears from red-rimmed eyes.
The pain of the parents looking for their daughters in that damning Surviving R.Kelly documentary smacked me like a hammer. Watching a husband and wife travel almost 1000 miles searching for their baby girl is a travesty in our community.
Early last year, a father of one of R.Kelly’s victims arranged a press conference. He explained what happened to his child and gave details. However, no one listened. Decades ago when R.Kelly married Alliyah, no one heard. He was on tape committing horrible sex acts with an underage teen, still only crickets. The now-famous tape circulated among thousands of people took on the image of a running joke. Even after his indictment on criminal sexual abuse charges his popularity continued to soar. His acquittal didn’t surprise me.
Ida B. Well, a suffragist, and civil rights activist, was a pioneer in exposing how Black women were raped, hung, and mutilated by white mobs consisting mostly of men.
Why was R. Kelly allowed to fester in the community for so long? It’s because of the undervaluing of black women’s bodies in American society. The deep south drips with the red blood of thousands of lynching victims. However, in the lynching record, Black women are left out of this devastating narrative.
Between 1880 and 1930 almost 200 women were lynched. Ida B. Well, a suffragist, and civil rights activist, was a pioneer in exposing how Black women were raped, hung, and mutilated by white mobs consisting mostly of men. She goes on further to state in her now classic book “Southern Horrors” how misplaced aggression against Black men accused of false rapes was a cover for the abuse of black women.
It’s a travesty these women’s stories disappeared into obscurity. However, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a monument to lynching victims erected in the state of Alabama, includes the name of a woman forgotten to history, Eliza Woods. Ida covered her tragic lynching and wondered at the injustice, but now Eliza will be remembered as she should.
In light of the above facts, it’s easy to see how The Pied Piper of R&B can so quickly get away with destroying the lives of many Black women. In the national media missing African Americans rarely are searched for like their white counterparts. In 2010 64,000 black women were missing across the nation. A white woman goes missing, and it’s national news. I am not lessening the devastation of a lost child to a white family, but they have a significantly better chance of receiving more attention than a young black girl. African Americans make up a little over 13 percent of the population but account for 35 percent of the missing persons in our country.
Furthermore, Thirty-five percent is a sobering number that illustrates how far we are from racial equality in this country. However, some are attempting to keep these mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons in the light. The website Black and missing is doing just that by highlighting these women and men’s stories.
Oprah’s network Oxygen aired a special in November of 2018 about Phoenix Coldon. She was a 23-year-old African American woman that disappeared without a trace in December of 2011. When she went missing, the media didn’t pay much attention. However, an investigative reporter working in St. Louis, Shawndrea Thomas, continued to make efforts to keep Phoenix’s story alive and shed light on the issue of missing African American women. It’s her efforts which are the subject of the documentary. The work these organizations are completing is essential and vital to continuing the conversation about missing African Americans.
I am happy about the attention R.Kelly’s victims received. I hope the recent charges lodged against this vicious predator are his final curtain call. In conclusion, I must state its a miscarriage of justice it took this long for a national outcry against Robert Kelly, but maybe this time our Black sisters will receive satisfaction seeing him finally tucked into an orange jumpsuit.