February was a difficult Black History Month with the scandals of two notable Black men in entertainment, R. Kelly and Jussie Smollett. Kelly is no stranger to controversy. The Surviving R. Kelly documentary that came out earlier this year, gave gut wrenching accounts from various women of abuse by the R&B pop master. I watched the documentary and was emotionally overwhelmed, deeply saddened, disgusted and downright angry at the masochist abuses the victims experienced. It’s baffling that R. Kelly chooses for the most part, to maintain a sense of innocence in his relationships despite the many similarities of abuse from different women he interacted with. For him to have the audacity to believe that the public is out to get him is cause for a proverbial eye roll.
Gayle King of CBS, sat down with Kelly in a recent interview, and the emotionally charged R. Kelly went on a tirade of how everyone is trying to knock a him down…trying to knock a Black man down. *Insert a second proverbial eye roll* Many kudos to Ms. King for her amazing composure during Kelly’s crocodile tears act. What his rant reminds me is that some Black men are in serious need of learning what it means to respect and honor women. This starts from home. There’s no need to cite a study about the gross decline of marriage today, and the growing rate of Black boys raised by single mothers. Although I’m not a licensed therapist, I do believe that Kelly has a mental problem, and dare I say a plethora of spiritual problems. In all, he needs help (and jail time), period.
In other news, “Empire” star and R&B singer, Jussie Smollett reported on January 29, 2019 to Chicago police, that early in the morning he had been beaten and noosed by two unknown attackers who yelled homophobic and racial slurs at him and poured an unknown substance on him. Almost immediately, a flood of support from social media, celebrities and some politicians and his co-stars, poured in for the actor. However, after a review of some phone records, video surveillance, and interviewing the alleged attackers, there appeared to be some gaps in Smollett’s account, which pointed to a most likely false report of a hate crime. In early March Jussie was indicted on 16 counts of reporting a false report. Despite these revelations, Smollett maintained that his account of the attack was factual. On March 26, 2019 the charges against Smollett were dropped. Reaction to this recent development of Smollett has been mixed.
In all, what pains me regarding the R. Kelly and Smollett sagas are the impact they may have on the voices of victims of abuse and hate crimes. While men are impacted by such experiences, traditionally women are more likely to be affected by such experiences, and may be less likely to report their abuse. In this age of the #MeToo movement, no person should feel scared to be vocal about abuse they’ve encountered. There’s a common saying that “charity begins at home” and dear Black family, we must get back to the basics of giving priority to our families, particularly to the upbringing of our children. All, I know is that we can do better.
By Dr. Chisom Unegbu