Weekly R.Kelly series starts DC conversation on sexual abuse

(From left) Allison Hector-Alexander, Krista Lisci, Julie Pigeon and Leesa McLeish-Diaz from Durham College are helping organize the Soup + Substance event detailing allegations of sexual abuse against R.Kelly. Photo credit: Victoria Marcelle

Durham College’s First Peoples Indigenous Centre is hosting a documentary series to get a conversation started on sexual abuse and the impact on women and children.

The series focuses on R.Kelly, American R & B superstar, and examines the sexual abuse allegations against him.

“The college has no opinions on the verdict of R.Kelly and we urge [students] to watch the series themselves and make their own conclusions,” says Krista Licsi, a facilitator at the Indigenous centre.

Every Thursday until March 14 from noon until 1 p.m., one 40-minute episode in the series ‘Surviving R.Kelly’ will be played at the Indigenous centre. The event is called Soup + Substance: Surviving R.Kelly.

The first week coincided with Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week in Canada. According to the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, an estimated one in three Canadian women will experience sexual assault as an adult.

The episode was followed by a 10-minute restorative circle to discuss the common themes that emerged from the program, such as R.Kelly’s predatory behaviour and the impacts on the Black community. The circle also discussed the music industry’s responsibility in the situation, because of the substantial profits made from R.Kelly’s music.

The series explores the many sexual abuse allegations towards R.Kelly and is a montage of stories from women who were subjected to sexual abuse from the artist when they were as young as age 14. One of the women was R.Kelly’s backup singer, Jovante Cunningham.

The first episode on Feb. 7 disclosed the painful, dark secrets of R.Kelly’s childhood, from living without a father to being molested by family members. A child psychologist in the episode describes the effects of being sexually abused as a child and how this affects victims when they mature as adults.

The episode included commentary from R.Kelly’s brothers, Carey and Bruce Kelly, childhood friend and former security guard, Gem Pratts, music teacher, Dr. Lena McLin and industry music producer, Craig Williams.

In addition to weekly viewings, Julie Pigeon, Indigenous coach, encourages students to learn about The REDress Project, a February initiative to pay respects to the more than 1,000 missing and murder Aboriginal women in Canada.

Students and staff can show their support by simply hanging a red dress from windows.