Can television change the world? It certainly seemed to have an impact on Friday, when R. Kelly (Robert Sylvester Kelly) was indicted before a grand jury on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse — less than two months after the six-part documentary series, Surviving R. Kelly, about the R&B singer’s alleged decades-long pattern of abusing underage women, premiered on Lifestyle.
And it took only a few minutes after word of his indictment for the Twitterverse to give credit where they felt credit was due: to Surviving R. Kelly executive producer Dream Hampton.
Dream Hampton’s documentary really did some damage. Creatives and journalist always and forever will be important in orchestrating major change
— QueenVee (@ValeseJ) February 22, 2019
The Latest: R Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abusehttps://t.co/Ja6JYZwwOu
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) February 22, 2019
— ruthannharnisch (@ruthannharnisch) February 22, 2019
— Linda MacDonald (@lindamacnst) February 22, 2019
Hampton, a writer, activist and filmmaker from Detroit, drew record-breaking viewership with Surviving R. Kelly, drawing 18.8 million in just its first three weeks and is now having more of an impact than many of those involved could have imagined.
On Wednesday, Hampton spoke with NPR’s Terry Gross about the complex “ecosystem” that enabled Kelly’s alleged behavior for so long — even leading to his acquittal on related charges, of child pornography, at a 2008 trial.
“We know that this [criminal justice] system is unfair to black people — not just black men, but black people… So to turn to that system for justice is itself an oxymoron. But at the same time, we have a knee-jerk reaction to protect black men, always at the expense of black women,” Hampton told Gross. “So this is something that we see generation after generation, and R. Kelly has a particular kind of love, which acts as a currency in the black community. He is singularly an R&B artist. He makes black music for black people … and he has used that love as a cover.”
On CNN on Friday, just before airing the live press conference on Kelly’s indictment from Chicago, commentators discussed the impact of the docu-series on reality.
“I’m just hoping that this is the moment in which…Robert is forced to be accountable,” said cultural critic Jamilah Lemieux, who appeared in the series and gave a shout-out to Hampton. CNN then rolled scenes from the documentary — including from an interview with a crying Lisa Van Allen, one of Kelly’s exes, who says about him, “I would think that he would want to be a better person and quit hurting people, quit hurting these girls.”
Hampton remained gracious in the face of so much praise on Friday, using her tweets on the matter to defer credit to the brave and outspoken survivors of Kelly’s alleged abuse:
This was always about Lizzette, Drea, Lisa, Jerhonda, Kitti, Asante, Faith and all the women who talked to us off camera because they knew they’d be dragged, doxxed and disbelieved. Thank you #SurvivingRKellly
— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) February 22, 2019
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