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June 16, 2008

R. Kelly And Our Girl Child


“A girl child ain’t safe in a family of mens…” ~ Sophia, The Color Purple

I remember being 13-years-old. For a while, I looked 18, but if you had a conversation with me, you would know I was a child – naive, immature and innocent – with a young woman’s body.

While I didn’t know about sex, I was increasingly aware that as my body changed I received more attention from boys and men. I thought it was cute. I remember thinking that since I had the body and the menstrual cycle, I must be grown. I was wrong, so wrong.

I remember when I was 12-years-old a neighbor’s cousin who was 18 and totally aware of my age, kept pursuing me. He was constantly trying to figure out ways to get me alone. But I was 12. Where am I going to tell my parents I’m going, especially when they don’t let me out of their sight? I guess he gave up.

A few days ago some co-workers and I were talking about the R. Kelly case when I remembered another old dude encounter. I was 13 and sitting on the porch with my youngest brother, Karim, who was about 1-year-old. Another neighbor’s male friend, in his mid-twenties, was driving pass and saw me. He had the Ice Cube Jheri curl look and thought he was so fly. He parked in front of my house and started talking to me while hanging out the window. I have no idea what we were talking about. I just remember him flirting with me and asking if my brother was my son (as a lot of people did back then). My mother was cooking in the kitchen, but she must have felt something going on. All I heard was her charging on the porch and letting him have it. I thought she was over-reacting and I remember him saying, “I’m just talking to her.” She told him he had no business talking to me, among other things. He pulled off and I had to come inside the house.

This case has made me recall other incidents as well. Like my father riding up on me (at 13) while play-fighting with a 17-year-old neighbor, or my mother refusing to let me see a 19-year-old friend from school who joined the army when I was 15. This one, however, knew he was too old for me and, during our two-year-friendship (before he graduated and enlisted), he ignored his attraction to me and took the role of a big brother. His friend, on the other hand, didn’t do the same with a girlfriend of mine. And there are so many others who don’t as well.

Their excuse? Our sassy mouths. Our developed bodies. As one juror on the R. Kelly case said, the female body on the infamous sex tape convinced him it wasn’t the girl in question. Is the reality of our society that young girls aren’t safe as they morph into womanhood?

R. Kelly was acquitted. He’s free to pee on other young girls. But isn’t it true that the sanctity of womanhood, the sacred feminine, has been defecated on for centuries?

We’re taught that menstruation is nasty, unclean. We refer to women experiencing PMS as crazy and emotional. Pregnancy is covered up in moo-moos. Labor takes place in some cold room in an institution designed to make money. Menopausal women are treated as if their life is over. Yet, we hear all this rhetoric about how the black woman is queen, the mother of all mothers and should be revered. Cut it out with the BS!

As much as we hate to admit it, R. Kelly’s case is more common than it is an anomaly. I think the case is shocking to people because there is actual evidence, a graphic depiction, of how a young woman is stripped of her innocence. But it doesn’t start with the act. It starts in the mind. The sacred feminine is not respected in our community because it is not understood, and unfortunately, young girls being abused and exploited is one of the consequences.

You can throw R. Kelly under the prison and child prostitution will still exist. You can castrate him, and rape will still exist. You can execute him, and violence against women will still exist. All because of women and girls are still devalued in our society. If we change the way we think, we will change our world.

I’m dreaming one day that we will stop patching up the problems in our community and understand that true healing will start when we acknowledge the feminine part of God, and honor that Presence within ourselves – both man and woman.

Envisioning you with much love, light and fulfillment. See you next week.

Yaminah Ahmad is editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Voice and contributing editor to Collective Voices, a newspaper published by the non-profit, SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. More information on the group can be found at www.sistersong.net. Ahmad can be reached at missyaminah@gmail.com.

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