Lifetime has captured the attention of audiences everywhere with its documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly.” The eye-opening three-night, six-episode series that aired on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, details the life of music star Robert Kelly, who performs under the moniker R. Kelly. The beloved singer has managed to create a long-lasting career with an unwavering fan base despite facing many accusations of abuse, predatory behavior and pedophilia.
The docuseries is monumental as it marks the first time that survivors and people from his camp have spoken out. With more than 50 interviews, “Surviving R. Kelly” also features family members, experts, activists and industry professionals who all speak to the behaviors that they have seen in Kelly over the years.
Frontline activist Kenyette Tish Barnes, who has been fighting for justice with the #MuteRKelly movement had this to say: “Separate the man from the music. We have to release our attachment to hero worship. We have to realize at the end of the day these are just humans, and some of our humans are flawed. Those flaws will translate into predatory behavior that will harm other people.”
Seeing the overwhelming reactions of anger and disbelief on social media, rolling out needed to join the conversation. On the final night of the series, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, the publication hosted a live watch-and-tweet event that provided an opportunity for people from the community to come out and watch the last two episodes, “All the Missing Girls” and “Black Girls Matter.” Survivor Lisa Van Allen and Barnes, who co-founded the #MuteRKelly movement, co-hosted the event. In between viewing breaks, very candid discussions were held with the audience.
Survivor Van Allen shared her feelings. “It seems as though it’s been an eye-opener. Lifetime did an amazing job with capturing everyone’s truth.”
Van Allen went on to say, “I’m happy, I’m in a great place right now. I’ve been speaking out since 2008. I was by myself doing it, and it was horrible. So, now to see people coming together to raise awareness and allow women to speak their truth is great.”
Attendee Iyanna Bailey shared her thoughts after the event. “It brought back what I had been through, a personal experience of being sexually assaulted,” Bailey revealed. “I did like R. Kelly until tonight. After meeting [Van Allen] and seeing her reaction, her pain and everything she’s gone through, never again. Never again will I ever be a fan of that man. Today was the first day that I’ve ever admitted to being sexually assaulted. That is how serious it was to me.”