On Wednesday, eight activist groups swarmed the NYC headquarters of Sony demanding that the label drop R. Kelly from their roster for good in the wake of a new Lifetime documentary that further exposed his history of alleged sexual abuse. Members of #MuteRKelly, Black Women’s Blueprint, Care2, Color of Change, CREDO, Girls for Gender Equity, NOW-NYC, and UltraViolet all gathered outside Sony, alongside other Kelly detractors, to hand deliver a letter with over 217,000 signatures to both Sony and RCA urging his contract be terminated. They also presented Sony and RCA with a “Record Label of Shame” award.
Color of Change organizer Jade Magnus Ogunnaike said in her speech at the protest, “[R. Kelly] did not act alone. He was supported by enablers — not only individuals, managers, and people who saw him abusing and violating young black girls for 25 years. He was aided by RCA.” She continued, “They knew he illegally married an underage Aaliyah. They knew he was grooming young black girls as young as 13, 14, and 15 and keeping them in his studio. They knew. And they were okay with it.” She went on to reference Sony’s decision not to renew Dr. Luke’s contract amid an ongoing legal battle with Kesha over allegations that he sexually abused her. (Kesha fans also pressured Sony to drop him.) Ogunnaike asked, “Why don’t young black girls and women get that same courtesy?”
To date, Sony nor RCA have not made any official statement about Kelly’s legal issues or his status at the label. Earlier this week, it was reported that Sony has now refused to fund or release any new music from Kelly as investigations into his alleged abuse continue in at least three states, and also while the label reportedly looks into options to void Kelly’s contract. Last week, UltraViolet flew a banner over Sony’s Culver City offices that read, “SONY/RCA: DROP SEXUAL PREDATOR R. KELLY.” Since the documentary, several artists have denounced Kelly, with some collaborators, including Lady Gaga and Chance the Rapper, going so far as to pull their songs with Kelly from streaming and iTunes.
Girls for Gender Equity founder Joanne N. Smith said at Wednesday’s rally, “Today, RCA, your number is called. You must be accountable to us as an accomplice to sexual and domestic violence. You’re accountable to our community and should not profit off the predation, exploitation, and degradation of black women and girls.” She added, “Now RCA, we read that you will not play anymore R. Kelly music. But we know that’s just a ploy to wait until this all dies down. This is never going to die down. We’re here and we’re never leaving until you drop R. Kelly.”