Stone cold sober analysis and simply paying attention both show that just because someone possesses a discovered artistic talent does not say anything about the real character of that person. Talent does not make one a decent human being.
We have watched, and will watch again, numerous examples of beloved singers, writers, actors and artists of all kinds who dazzle us with their gifts, but who otherwise turn out to be real ogres in their real-life character. Not throwing shade, but although Bill Cosby was a giant in the entertainment arts, his reputation now has been shot to pieces. It is unlikely that he will ever regain it before he transitions out of here.
Two or three years ago, with Oprah Winfrey’s help, there was a large public campaign and widely seen documentary promoted about the supposed sins of Michael Jackson and villainous acts with children. Another lawsuit was filed against his estate aimed both at besmirching Mr. Jackson’s reputation and being paid millions of dollars for Mr. Jackson’s supposed perfidies. Interestingly enough, when the lawsuits were thrown out of court, Mr. Jackson exonerated and the plaintiffs received no money, the media gave that packet of facts little coverage. Sometimes we expect too little or too much of our heroes and sheroes.
Now comes again a very well-known artist whose song production rivaled the very best of the 80’s and 90’s—- R. Kelley (nee Robert Sylvester Kelley). We all remember the 1996 song , “I Believe I Can Fly,” for example, that became such a standard for school graduations, weddings, commercials, etc. But as great as the brother was in the music field, (he is a multi-Grammy winner and a multi-platinum-selling artist) apparently he has left a trail of bizarre behavior in his wake dealing with the abuse of young girls. At least that’s what some say and that he’s been charged with, and some people have dedicated themselves to bringing him to account.
Starting this week in New York, a federal jury trial (seven men, five women) begins to try and convict Mr. Kelley of serious wrongdoing during his illustrious career. He also is due to face similar charges in Chicago and in the state of Minnesota later this year or next, even though he was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography and sexual pandering charges in Chicago.
Part of the prosecution’s case is accusing Mr. Kelley of violating the federal Mann Act, which prohibits the “transport of any woman or girl” across state lines “for any immoral purpose.” History reminds us that this is the same law that was used to convict rock legend Chuck Berry and put him in prison in 1959.
At his current age of 54, if Mr. Kelley is convicted he will spend most of the rest of his life behind bars. He would also become a scalp for the #MeToMovement if convicted.
Also a part of this new case will be evidence presented about at least two underage “John Doe” victims—young boys. The court filed documents say that Mr. Kelley groomed two teenage boys he met in New York in 2016. Mr. Kelly allegedly invited one of these boys into his NY studio supposedly to mentor him in the music business, and then had sex with the underaged young man. He also is accused of paying another young man to have sex with some of Mr. Kelley’s girlfriends, while Mr. Kelley filmed the encounters without permission.
This sordidness may all turn out in Mr. Kelley’s favor. That, however, is doubtful. For us, it is another lesson learned. Believe in the art more than you believe in the artist, the elders have always told us.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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