Jasmyne Cannick and other black activists plan to station themselves across the street from the Forum on Friday to protest a concert that night by R. Kelly, the R&B; superstar and celebrity defendant, but Cannick is already resigned to the fact that her picket line will be outnumbered by scalpers.
"It's like pulling teeth to get people to talk about this," Cannick said. "It's a challenge to get the black community to even discuss it. . . . They're acting like he doesn't have 14 counts of child pornography against him. . . . We're all acting like we don't have daughters and nieces and little sisters."
The silence that seems deafening to Cannick is a relief to Derrell McDavid, Kelly's manager. "There's been no protests on this tour," he said Tuesday. "It's just been a warm embrace and sold-out shows." (The Thursday show at Honda Center in Anaheim, however, has been called off due to sluggish sales, and refunds are being offered.)
Kelly was caught up in a tempest in 2002 when a videotape that purportedly showed him engaging in sex acts with a girl in her early teens opened the door to criminal charges and lawsuits from females who claimed they were also his underage sex partners. Even before that, Kelly had a reputation for sexual contact with female minors -- not only did he write the 1994 hit "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" for the late singer Aaliyah, it was revealed later that he married her when she was 15 and he was 27.
The criminal case is still winding through the courts after repeated delays, but Kelly's career has not only endured, it has thrived. In 2002-2003, he had one of his biggest hits ever, "Ignition (Remix)," which kicked off a run of successful years. This year, "Double Up" became the fifth R. Kelly album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and he has just been nominated for two Grammys. As McDavid said: "He's at the top of his game."
On Tuesday, a group of protesters gathered at the Forum to call on the venue's owner, the Faithful Central Bible Church, to call off the show. In 2005, the church canceled a performance by a heavy-metal band that Chief Operating Officer Marc Little said was "antithetical to our beliefs." Little and other Forum executives did not return calls Tuesday. Cannick was not optimistic about her cause: "Everyone is making money, and everyone seems OK with him. People really need to wake up."