Still Jamming to R. Kelly’s “Bump And Grind”? Tarana Burke Has A Message For You: You’re Supporting Abuse

July 8, 2018  |  

tarana burke talks #muterkelly at essence fest


While #EssenceFest is a time to celebrate all things #BlackGirlMagic and bond and grow with fellow sistas all over the globe (and maybe even randomly bump into Michael B. Jordan) let’s not neglect the empowerment and education that is happening in New Orleans this weekend as well. Many fans of controversial R&B singer R. Kelly have criticized boycotts against the artist and his works given allegations placed against him for his exploitation and sexual assault on women and young girls. Critics say recent boycotts are too little, too late and even question if there is any truth to them at all.

However, #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke is crystal clear about where she stands when it comes to protesting R. Kelly and his work. Burke was featured as a panelist for “I’m Woke, Now What?” on The ESSENCE Festival empowerment stage and shared that if you don’t see anything wrong with a little “Bump & Grind” by now, you’re a part of the problem:

“We’re talking about a man who systematically preys on Black and Brown girls and I have people on a regular basis tell me, ‘It’s just a song.’”

ESSENCE reports that the activist has been a long proponent of the #MuteRKelly movement and feels that fans continuing to spend money on R. Kelly’s music and performances are directly contributing to the livelihood of a predator:

“Every dime you put in that motherf–ker’s pocket he is using it to brutalize Black and Brown children.”

Tamika Mallory, co-founder of The Woman’s March, also shared that when it comes to working towards any real change, the community can’t just only protest when it’s convenient or choose not to fight against those who are part of the problem because we are fans of their artistry or because they make catchy songs. She also expressed that it’s not just enough to “Like” or “Share” on social media. Real change only happens when people show up:

“A lot of people will like something that I do [on social media], and then when have a rally–which is when we’re actually taking the force to the front of the problem–and not enough people show up. So the balance is off.”

“What happens is sometimes people sit back and say, ‘Ok, maybe on social media it’s important, but it’s not important in terms of our bottom dollar, so when a young woman by the name of Chikesia Clemons can be dragged up and down Waffle House all over the place…and we can still go to the Waffle House, even though we’re sharing the video on social media, that’s a problem.”

Political strategist and commentator Symone Sanders went on to say it’s not just about fighting for causes we are passionate about individually, it’s also about holding your friends and family accountable, even when it’s awkward:

“The problem is we have yet to hold one another accountable. Because you can’t be my homegirl and walk up in the Waffle House. You can’t be with me and let R. Kelly play because we’re not going to be good.”

Burke continued that with all the issues that the world is currently facing, it’s important that Black women focus and follow through, whether you choose to throw all of your R. Kelly CD’s in the trash or you are making posters demanding immigrant families be kept together. Burke reminded the audience causes don’t have to take priority over one another and it’s OK to focus to what speaks to you at any given time:

“This is the battle I’ve picked. There’s always going to be somebody else, forget about what other people are doing and forget about what white people are doing.”

She also reminded the audience that regardless of who the media is telling you is directly affected by or the face of a problem, black women must take ownership of their battles:

“The #MeToo movement is for you and we have to stop giving up our power. When you say it’s not yours when I’m looking you in your face and telling you I started this for you and you let white people tell you it’s somebody else’s? This is yours.”

“It’s yours if you say it’s yours. Reclaim your power and stop giving it up to other people.”

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