Illustration by Morgan Elise Johnson | The TRiiBE

“I just didn’t believe them, the women,” John Petrean says in the fourth episode of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docuseries. The older white man was one of the jurors who acquitted Kelly in his 2002 child pornography case. “The way they dressed, the way they act, I didn’t like them.” Petrean spoke about the Black women who testified against Kelly with staunch misogynoir, a recurring theorem whenever Black girls and women have accused the R&B singer of sex with minors and sexual abuse over the last 30 years.

Most viewers didn’t bat an eye over Petrean’s statement. It’s not unusual to hear that a white man feels that way about Black girls and women. But being on social media this week, and seeing just how many Black Chicagoans still echo this belief today, with many choosing not to watch the documentary because of their undying loyalty to Kelly, begged a larger question about abuse culture in the music industry. What will it take for our society to believe Black girls and women?

“This is an industry where anything goes and, before you know it, you are all sucked in,” popular TV personality Wendy Williams says in the series.

In Kelly’s native Chicago, Surviving R. Kelly triggered multiple days of polarizing debates on social media as the series wove through harrowing accounts of accusers, patterns in Kelly’s mental and sexual abuse, and present-day searches for the Black girls – now women – who disappeared with Kelly years ago.

Throughout the series, executive producer Dream Hampton and her team shows that Kelly is only able to maintain his predatory sexual behavior because of his network of enablers – the bodyguards, employees, friends, and family, fellow artists, and everyday people who choose to focus on his “genius” and contributions to music than the allegations.

As the series came to a close, there was a collective question on social media of where Chicago can go from here? Here is a look at some of those conversations.

Chicago radio, personalities, & deejays

Legendary radio host Tom Joyner makes an appearance in the Surviving R. Kelly docuseries. In it, he admits his complicity in Kelly’s behavior by continuing to play his music on urban radio despite years of sexual abuse allegations. With the creation of the #MuteRKelly movement in 2017, organizers reached out to Joyner, asking him to stop spinning Kelly’s records. And he did.

Now, after watching Surviving R. Kelly, 107.5 WGCI radio personality Kendra G is on the same wave. On Instagram, shared that the series informed showed her how the salacious themes in Kelly’s songs, such as “Bump N Grind” and “Your Body’s Calling,” were inspired by his abuse of young Black girls in Chicago.

“Hard to listen to music when you know it was inspired by little girls. Also, I don’t have ANY control over the music we play on the radio but I will for damn sure make it clear I no longer want R. Kelly music played on my show!” Kendra G wrote on her Instagram page.

Some of her followers questioned her sudden wokeness, calling it “fake outrage.”

Another conversation on social media involved deejays, and whether they should continue to spin Kelly during their sets. Chicago journalist Adrienne Samuels Gibbs posted on Twitter about a party she attended where the deejay started playing Kelly’s “Step In the Name of Love.” When everyone left the floor in protest, the deejay started complaining. “Took dj 30 seconds to switch,” Gibbs wrote.

Chicago artists

A previously unreleased Cassius interview of writer Jamilah Lemieux and Chance The Rapper from May 2018 aired during the final episode of the series. In that clip, Chance says that recording the 2015 track “Somewhere in Paradise” with Kelly, along with other collaborations with him, was a “mistake.”

But Chance found himself in world of criticism on social media when he said, during the interview, that he “didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were Black women.”

“We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to black male oppression,” he says. “But Black women are exponentially [a] higher oppressed and violated group of people just in comparison to the whole world. Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were Black women. Usually, niggas that get in trouble for shit like this on their magnitude of celebrity, it’s light-skinned women or white women. That’s when it’s a big story. I’ve never really seen any pictures of R. Kelly’s accusers.”

As more and more people joined the debate surrounding Chance’s interview, Chicago women started calling out his friends and the creative youth organizations Young Chicago Authors on allegations of abuse. One Twitter user, @pppermint, accused Save Money rapper Towkio of sexually abusing her in February 2016. Towkio denied the allegations in his Twitter response.

On Monday afternoon, Young Chicago Authors released the following statement about the abuse allegations circulating on social media.


Empowered by Surviving R. Kelly, and the #MeToo movement, Twitter user @kaiannkathryn started the #SurvivingLoudly hashtag on Twitter on Sunday night. Women are using this hashtag to share their stories of sexual abuse by men in Chicago’s music and activism scenes. As of today, there are hundreds of tweets under the hashtag. [ed. note: We cannot confirm the allegations within the hashtag at this time].