Black Girls from Chicago: A Statement of Solidarity from A Long Walk Home’s Girl/Friends for the Young Women in “Surviving R. Kelly”
Chicago, IL

We are writing a statement in solidarity with all the brave survivors who have shared their stories in Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary, with those who have disclosed in person or online with the hashtag #survivingloudly, and to all Black girls, cis, trans, and gender-non conforming, who are healing from sexual violence. Some of us are from the Westside of Chicago, which is the same neighborhood in which R. Kelly illegally married a 15-year-old Aaliyah and where his music studio is located. Some of us go to school on the Southside, near or at Kenwood Academy, Kelly’s alma mater and the site at which he built his predatory sexual playground. As Black girls and young women from Chicago, these stories of his abuse shaped our childhood and defined our sense of safety.
As leaders in the A Long Walk Home’s Girl/Friends Leadership Institute, we are often the first responders when other girls are sexually assaulted in our communities. We use our art to amplify our own voices and the stories of so many Black girls that go unheard. Our friends often confide their experiences with abuse in us, our classmates seek us out for support, and our peers, both boys and girls, ask us advice on counseling or how to be a better bystander. Thanks to the “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries, millions of people have started to listen to girls and young women of color speak their truth. And while so much has been said about Black girls who have survived sexual violence, we believe it is time that you heard directly from us.

Our ask is simple :

  1. Believe us.
  2. Trust our leadership.
  3. Invest in organizations that support our vision and voices.
  4. Find resources to help you heal from your own trauma and prevent you from further harming us or making our pain invisible. 
  5. Resist the constant urge to put other groups ahead of us and keep the conversation centered on black girls.

This is a unique moment and opportunity to continue to center our experiences and value our expertise in our collective push for gender equality and racial justice. To create and sustain a world in which we all can be free from sexual violence, as Black girls and young women:

We refuse narratives that suggest that girls who dress and look like us deserve to be assaulted.
We reject stereotypes that deem us unworthy of having our rights protected.
We believe Black girls matter. Period.
We will no longer be silent. 
We will be heard. 

- A Long Walk Home’s Girl/Friends Leaders
ABOUT A LONG WALK HOME: A Long Walk Home (ALWH) is a Chicago-based national non-profit that uses art to empower young people to end violence against all girls and women. ALWH’s Girl/Friends Leadership Institute is an artist-activist program that trains girls and young women to embrace their voices, cultivate their vision, and advocate for gender and racial equality in their schools, communities, cities, and our country-at-large.