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Time’s Up’s Women of Color: Time’s Up on R. Kelly [UPDATE]

Time’s Up, the celebrity-led movement against sexual harassment and abuse in entertainment, is taking a stand against R. Kelly. In a new public statement, Time’s Up’s Women of Color committee announced the organization’s decision to join #MuteRKelly, an existing hashtag campaign whose organizers advocate for concert cancelations and other consequences in response to Kelly’s history of sexual misconduct allegations. It’s the latest sign of steadily mounting public pressure in the months since an explosive Buzzfeed report on Kelly’s allegedly abusive “cult” of young women renewed scrutiny on the singer, who has long denied all allegations against him.

“The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause,” the Women of Color of Time’s Up write in their new statement. “With that said, we demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly’s abuse made by women of color and their families for over two decades now.” The group goes on to outline Kelly’s lengthy history of alleged misconduct, including his marriage to the 15-year-old Aaliyah in 1995, the child porn charges on which he was eventually acquitted in 2008, and multiple accusations of abuse and manipulation of sex partners, including some who were allegedly underage. The statement calls for action by multiple parties, including Kelly’s label RCA Records; streaming platforms Spotify and Apple Music; North Carolina’s Greensboro Coliseum venue, which is set to host Kelly on May 11; and Ticketmaster, which is ticketing the Greensboro concert.

It’s been mostly bad news for Kelly lately, as a mix of activism and new allegations cast fresh and unflattering light. Earlier this month, the singer’s longtime lawyer and publicist severed ties, following reports that an unnamed woman was taking legal action against Kelly for allegedly giving  her an STD and “grooming” her to join his “cult.” #MeToo founder Tarana Burke successfully convinced radio personality Tom Joyner to stop playing Kelly’s music on his show, while artists including Jack Antonoff and Vince Staples have voiced outrage publicly, with Antonoff saying he asked RCA to drop Kelly repeatedly and Staples calling Kelly a “child molester.” Most recently, Kelly’s scheduled appearance at a May 5 multi-artist concert at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion was canceled following opposition from the university community. (Kelly blamed the cancelation on “rumors.”)

Members of the Women of Color of Time’s Up reportedly include Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rimes, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell, all of whom have tweeted about today’s announcement. John Legend also voiced support. Read the group’s full statement on R. Kelly below.

Update (5:45 p.m. Eastern): In a statement to Variety signed “R. Kelly management,” the singer responded to Time’s Up’s announcement by calling it “unjust” and claiming that he “is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy.” Find Kelly’s full response below.

Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement.  We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals—and in this case, it is unjust and off-target.

We fully support the rights of women to be empowered to make their own choices.  Time’s Up has neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly’s support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts.  Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time.

Kelly’s music is a part of American and African-American culture that should never—and will never—be silenced.   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.