GREENSBORO — The message was clear from protesters Friday night outside R&B singer R. Kelly’s concert.
About 30 people gathered across the street from the Greensboro Coliseum to protest the singer’s presence in the city.
Omisade Burney-Scott, with the Durham-based nonprofit SisterSong, said the voices of black women who have suffered through sexual assault have not been heard. She said we are in a time when people aren’t tolerating it anymore.
She said the singer has never been convicted of any wrongdoing, however, several women have accused him of sexual misconduct.
“We don’t want North Carolina or the city of Greensboro to put money in R. Kelly’s pockets,” she said.
The group of protesters from various organizations held signs and yelled chants as cars drove by. The protest is one of the latest events connected to the #MuteRKelly movement.
R. Kelly was recently dropped from a May 5 concert in Chicago, and the music streaming services Pandora and Spotify removed him from playlists curated by the platforms. Listeners can still search for R. Kelly’s songs on both services, but his work won’t be promoted, the Associated Press reported.
R. Kelly is one of pop music’s best-selling artists, with hits including “Ignition,” “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Step in the Name of Love,” “Same Girl” and “Bump N’ Grind.” He’s also written hits for Celene Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga.
He’s written classic love songs and even gospel music, but he’s defined by sexually explicit songs such as “Feelin’ on Yo Booty,” “Your Body’s Calling Me,” and “Sex Me.”
Kelly denies abusing anyone and faces no current criminal charges.
He was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography after a video circulated appearing to show him having sex with a teenage girl. But as he continued to score hits and sell out stadiums, more women have come forward in recent years accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Several cars drove by Friday’s protest honking at the group of people with signs that read: “R. Kelly is a pedophile,” and “Step in the name of justice,” a play on his song, “Step in the name of love.”
The signs didn’t strike a chord with everyone who walked or drove by the protest.
Kita Shaw and her mother, who did not want to be identified, drove from Burlington to see R. Kelly. Shaw said her mom likes his music so she wanted to bring her to the show regardless of what has been said about him.
“What he does in his private life has nothing to do with me,” Shaw said. “He wasn’t convicted of anything.”
Burney-Scott said she is disappointed that the coliseum allowed the concert to go on.
She said the protest is about more than a concert. It’s about holding people accountable, she said, and listening to the voices of those who have been impacted by sexual misconduct. Burney-Scott said the city and the coliseum staff didn’t care about accusations against Kelly.
“It’s about money for them,” she said. “It says a lot about what they value.”
Brandi Collins-Calhoun, with YWCA Greensboro, said she and others will attend Tuesday’s City Council meeting to question why the city allowed Kelly to perform in the city. She said 5,000 tickets were sold for the concert.
Kelly is scheduled to perform in Raleigh tonight.
“I’m hoping to get some kind of accountability Tuesday at the City Council meeting,” Calhoun said. “The city plays a part in this.”