The Women of Color coalition of the Time's Up campaign are calling on RCA Records, Ticketmaster, and other major music corporations to #MuteRKelly.
Time's Up, the organization devoted to helping women in the aftermath of sexual abuse, issued a statement Monday announcing support for the existing "Mute R. Kelly" social media campaign, calling for boycotts of his music and further investigation into his behavior. The "Mute R. Kelly" campaign was started last year by Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Barnes, with the similar goal of encouraging boycotts of R. Kelly's performances and music.
The Time's Up statement "demands appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly’s abuse made by women and their families for more than two decades," citing Bill Cosby’s conviction last week for sexual assault as a step in the right direction.
Later Monday, Kelly responded with a statement to Variety and Rolling Stone supporting the Time's Up movement but denouncing an "attempted public lynching of a black man." His statement said he is "the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy" to demean him.
"We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to (Time's Up) goals — and in this case, it is unjust and off-target," the statement said. "Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it. We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.”
Beyond the allegations of sexual abuse that have followed Kelly for decades, new accusers have come forward in the past year, alleging that the singer committed acts of sexual coercion and physical abuse. A 2017 Buzzfeed story reported that Kelly rented homes in Atlanta and Chicago for groups of women who allegedly perform sexual favors for him, and where Kelly dictates their every move, including what they can wear and when they can eat and sleep.
Kelly has denied all allegations against him, with his lawyer Linda Mensch disputing Buzzfeed's reporting in a statement to USA TODAY at the time. "Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him," the statement reads. "Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name."
The new "Mute R. Kelly" statement was issued by the Women of Color committee within Time’s Up, which includes Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay, TV mogul Shonda Rhimes and actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell. The Time’s Up letter was addressed to women of color, beginning with the statement, “We see you. We feel you. Because we are you.”
"We join the call to #MuteRKelly and insist on the safety + dignity of all women," DuVernay tweeted on Monday. "We demand investigations into R. Kelly’s abuse allegations made by women of color + their families for two decades. We call on those who profit from his music to cut ties."
Questlove co-signed the new movement, writing on Instagram that he is "standing alongside the women and sisters in the LONG OVERDUE CANCELLATION of R. Kelly."