'I won't listen to his music:' Local fans on R. Kelly's 30 year prison sentence; survivors speak

Joel Brown Image
Thursday, June 30, 2022
Local fans, survivors speak on R. Kelly's 30 year prison sentence
R. Kelly's slow motion fall from grace ended with a three-decade long prison sentence for racketeering and sex trafficking.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- R. Kelly's slow motion fall from grace ended with a three-decade long prison sentence for racketeering and sex trafficking.

Victim after victim took the stand to testify against the disgraced R&B superstar. One woman testified, "I wished I would die because of how low you made me feel."

"I never thought that I would be here to see him be held accountable for the atrocious things that he did to children," said Lizette, a victim and testimony witness.

"I started this journey 30 years ago. I was 14 years old when I encountered Robert Sylvester Kelly," Jovante, another victim, added.

In Raleigh's Moore Square, Wednesday night, many grappling with R. Kelly's conviction with one-time listeners of his music.

Kelly once boasted legions of fans; selling millions of albums; even after allegations of his abuse of young girls began to circulate publicly in the late nineties.

"Growing up in a Black household, R. Kelly was the typical cookout music," said Daejane Richardson. "No, I wouldn't listen to his music ever again."

Richardson's friend Nabila Bustillos remembers singing Kelly's hit, "The Greatest" as part of her fifth grade graduation ceremony. A memory she said kind of creeps her out now.

"I won't listen to his music again," Bustillos said. "Even when it comes on, it makes me feel icky."

Culture critic and Duke University James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African American Studies, Mark Anthony Neal, began muting R. Kelly in the early 2000s. For other fans, it took much longer.

"What's really interesting about the R Kelly case is that not only did he escape prosecution, he actually escaped public accountability for his acts for a full decade," Neal said.

Kelly's conviction and now his sentencing gives voice to accusers who openly wondered if their stories were ignored because they were Black women.

"Had this been a group of white women or one white woman -- I think this goes very differently," said Neal.

"There wasn't a day in my life up until this moment that I actually believed that the judicial system will come through for Black and brown girls," Jovante said outside the New York City courthouse.

R. Kelly has denied any wrongdoing. He gave no statement at Wednesday's sentencing and plans to appeal his conviction.