• Veronica Wells-Puoane

R. Kelly Survivor Faith Rodgers Talks The Excuses We Make For Black Men


When we were children, and still today, my sister and I had a habit of creating songs about whatever topic came across our mind. We wrote one about Ginuwine’s sex appeal. We created one about the fact that we didn’t want to transfer elementary schools. And we even changed the lyrics to R. Kelly’s “Bump n’ Grind.”

They went something like, “I don’t see nothing wroooong with a little girl that’s nine.” It was a play on the fact that R. Kelly’s grown ass had a penchant for young girls. Even as children, there were rumors that he had married Aaliyah, a woman much younger than him. And there was the video of him statutorily raping a pre-teen.

But as children, even though we crafted that song, we still didn’t properly conceptualize what R. Kelly was doing. Our young minds didn’t understand the ramifications of power dynamics. We didn’t grasp the reach of money and the perversion of his sexual practices.

Children weren’t the only ones who struggled with these concepts. For years, R. Kelly’s video of himself with the young girl was described as a “sex tape” rather than what it really was, “child porn.” We laughed off his sexual practices with barber shop jokes and comedic sketches. And much later, there were some of us who wanted to volunteer as tribute for Kelly’s sex rituals believing them to be more freaky than felonious.

But in the era of #MeToo and our growing knowledge of consent and the nature of rape culture, it became increasingly difficult to excuse the R. Kelly’s of the world. For some of us, this transition was easy. We were never a fan of Kelly’s rudimentary lyrics and exaggerated video concepts. But for people like me, who grew up in the Midwest, where Kelly’s music scored so many of life’s memorable moments, it was more difficult. Still, with maturity and education, I let that nigga go.

There was no way I could purport to write, advocate, and support Black women while simultaneously supporting R. Kelly, whether financially, in streams or anywhere else.

But I’m just a bit different from the aunties, grandmas and younger Black women still hellbent on lifting Black men even at the expense of ourselves.

I can’t say if Black women like me are in the majority or not. But what is clear is that Faith Rodgers, one of R. Kelly’s survivors, has found herself interacting with more aunties and grandmas than she has with women who support her cause of holding a despicable Black men accountable for his actions.

For those who don’t know her story, Faith Rodgers, a participant in Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary, part one and two, was 19-years-old when she met R. Kelly at a concert. Like some of his other victims, she was invited backstage where the two exchanged information. They dated for a little over 11 months long distance from Texas to wherever Kelly would fly her to meet him. But after seeing how he attempted to control her and the way he described his sex-life, Faith knew this was not something she wanted to be a part of. Unfortunately, by the time she left R. Kelly, he had already infected her with herpes, an incurable sexually transmitted disease. Seeking accountability from the singer, she decided to sue him after she learned that local law enforcement did not want to press charges against Kelly.

She also decided to participate in Lifetime’s docuseries about the singer in hopes of helping the young women who are still living with Kelly, particularly Jocelyn Savage.

But Rodgers found that her speaking out made her a target, with older Black women being the group holding the arrows.

I had a chance to speak with Faith for MadameNoire, yesterday. Listen to what she had to say about going back and forth with grandmas, helping “diagnose” STDS, and Black women excusing Black men.

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