National womens' group UltraViolet took to the skies today to urge Sony Music and CBS Records to drop R&B music artist R. Kelly from their talent rosters amid renewed accusations of sexual predation of black girls and women.
The online organization focused on fighting sexual assault and sexism leased the plane to fly over the offices of Sony-owned RCA Records in Culver City from 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Los Angeles time, trailing a banner that read: “RCA/Sony: Drop Sexual Predator R. Kelly."
In a press release announcing the stunt, UltraViolet said it arranged the protest plane because RCA Records has yet to drop R. Kelly, despite long-standing accusations that the music artist has abused black women, many of whom were underage minors.
The R&B artist, who has long denied wrongdoing, in 2008 was found innocent of 14 criminal charges related to child pornography after he was first indicted in 2002.
"It is long past time for RCA to dump R. Kelly and take a stand against abuse. Their inaction is beyond shameful. RCA can no longer pretend that R. Kelly's music can be separated from his violent actions," Karin Roland, chief campaigns officer at UltraViolet, said in a statement.
Though complaints against R. Kelly are nothing new, the UltraViolet activism follows the airing of a three-night, six-hour TV series on Lifetime (airing on Slice in Canada), Surviving R. Kelly, that features a host of women alleging they were sexually abused by the singer.
The women's organization argues the documentary series, which drew record ratings for Lifetime, exposed Kelly's sexual misconduct -- including "child pornography, statutory rape, marrying a minor" -- with the music industry having helped Kelly groom young black women, many underage, for sexual abuse over the years.
“When record labels like RCA Records and music platforms like Spotify promote abusers, they allow those abusers to reap in profits, lining their pockets with royalties and expanding their fan base. This normalizes violence against women," UltraViolet's Roland added in a statement.
The protest plane follows earlier activism against R. Kelly, including by Kenyetta Barnes and Oronike Odeleye, co-founders of the #MuteRKelly campaign, which launched in 2017.
The social media hashtag group #MuteRKelly, which collaborated with the Lifetime documentary series' producers, has targetted black women, a key fan base for R. Kelly, by in part securing cancellations of concerts and raising public awareness about his alleged crimes.
"We have come together to call for a worldwide mute on R&B singer, Robert 'R' Kelly, due to his 25 year history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse allegations. While he hasn't been found guilty in a court of law, the evidence is overwhelming that he has created an uninterrupted pattern of sexual violence in the African American community that must be stopped," the #MuteRKelly group says on its website.
UltraViolet in Sept. 2018 did a similar aerial pass over over downtown Boulder, Colorado and the University of Coloradoto express support for Deborah Ramirez, one of three women who stepped forward to accuse then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
The banner for that “creative visual messaging” initiative, as UltraViolet describes the activism, read: "Thank you Deborah we have your back."
UltraViolet also sponsored a plane to pass over the Palo Alto, California home of another Kavanaugh accuser, Christine Blasey, Ford, with the sign this time reading "Thank you Christine. We have your back."
Despite those protests, Kavanaugh eventually earned enough support from Senate politicians in Washington, D.C. to land a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since its launch in 2012, UltraViolet insists it has amassed over 1.2 million followers to back its effort to fight sexism in the public and private sectors, and the media.
"We lead long-term culture and policy change by unifying millions of people to shine a spotlight on the urgent issues that shape all of our lives—violence, reproductive rights, healthcare, economic security, immigrants’ rights, criminal justice, and racial justice," the organization says on its website.
"We center individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by injustice, including women of color, indigenous women, immigrants, and LGBTQ people," the mission statement adds.
The grass-roots activism aims at influencing thought leaders -- from journalists, CEOs and boards of directors to advertising executives, politicians and celebrities -- to advance efforts to curtail sexual assault and harassment in the workplace and the wider society.
"We have forced major corporations to oust high-level executives and serial predators like Bill O’Reilly and Les Moonves; exposed decades of sexual assault by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in The New York Times; expanded justice for survivors in high-profile rape cases; and pressured the NFL to overhaul its policies on domestic violence and sexual assault and invest millions of dollars to organizations working to end violence against women," the organization says on the website about past campaigns.
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