An Open Letter to Columbus, R. Kelly, Fashion Meets Music Festival, and All Women


Hello everyone,

Bobbi and I have a lot we want to say, so I'll try and be as concise as possible, but please read and share this, because we feel it's incredibly important.

Recently we were asked to perform at the first-ever Fashion Meets Music Festival, which is set to be a hugely successful and incredible event in our fair city. This was a dream come true for both of us, because we are crazy about fashion and music, and the melding of the two is something we were both ecstatic about...until it was announced yesterday that R. Kelly would be headlining.

We discussed the situation, and shortly after, decided to make this Facebook post: 

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Within a matter of hours, it became the most viewed and shared post we've ever made on Facebook. We did not expect this big of a reaction to our statement, which has been overwhelming, and we thank all of you who have joined in and spoken up about this issue. Bobbi and I were both extremely nervous when we posted this, for reasons we hope are obvious, but we are glad and relieved people are actually addressing the issue at hand instead of dismissing us or accusing us of trying to get attention, which couldn't be farther from the truth. Now, before I continue, a couple of disclaimers:

1) I want to re-emphasize to all the other bands (and the committee) that we are EXTREMELY excited and honored to be part of FMMF. We do not take that for granted and we mean no disrespect, and that's a big part of WHY we spoke up. We are coming from a place of good intentions. We care about Columbus and we want the festival to start off on the right foot. But as artists I believe we all have a responsibility to speak up about the things that are important to us, even when it's uncomfortable. We know there are a LOT of other people and bands who feel the same way that we do about this.

2) We did NOT mean for this to be an attack on anyone, except arguably Mr. Kelly himself. We would like to emphasize that we understand he is a huge entertainer, and if he does indeed perform at FMMF, thousands of people will surely attend and we are in no way attacking those people or the event organizers (that being said, we do hope the festival committee will take our words to heart and, again, hopefully reconsider having R. Kelly be part of the event.)

3) I realize that, in my haste, I referred to R Kelly as a serial rapist in our Facebook post, which I admit was probably uncalled for, because he has not been convicted. Nevertheless, the evidence against him is pretty damning, and the cold, hard, most likely truth of the matter is the only reason he wasn't convicted was because he preyed on lower-class, underage black girls, which are probably the most ignored people in this great nation of ours. What would you do if you were a poor, underage black girl who was raped by an extremely wealthy artist? My guess is, as much as you would hate to do it, you would probably accept an out-of-court settlement.

Now, on to the ugly part: Bobbi and I are feminists. Being a white male from the suburbs, I am extremely apprehensive about discussing this, but for now, please spare me any lectures about how you think I don't know what it's like, or why you think men can't be feminists, because while I respect your opinion, I don't want to hear it. I live in our society too and I have had more female friends victimized than I would care to count, and, frankly, if you're a man and you AREN'T a feminist, then I think you need smacked upside the head, because you aren't paying attention.

So when Bobbi and I are begging the festival committee to kick R. Kelly off the bill, we are doing so because we think it is symptomatic of a much larger problem at hand than R. Kelly coming and playing what I'm sure will be a great show, if that's your cup of tea. We are asking Columbus, and society as a whole, to WAKE UP AND STOP IGNORING THE SERIOUS PROBLEM OUR CULTURE HAS WITH GLAMORIZING PREDATORY MEN AND IGNORING THE VICTIMIZATION OF WOMEN. Seriously, it needs to stop, and the only way it's going to stop is if people like you and us stand up and say we're not okay with the idea of shelling out thousands of dollars to bring in an entertainer who is contributing to the problem, when that money could be given to any number of rape prevention or womens' services across Franklin county, or perhaps to other big-name artists who haven't been accused of multiple statutory rapes.

Bret Adams, one of the cofounders of Fashion Meets Music Festival, was quoted as saying:

“I don’t even think [Kelly’s inclusion] was a debate. We don’t have a national R&B act, and we wanted to fill that void, and he’s one of the best-selling artists of all time. Why wouldn’t we? He’s good national press for us and Columbus. He’s a nationally known name. He was not convicted of anything. He was acquitted. If we wanted to limit our artists to people who never had brushes with the law or were not good people, then you can eliminate quite a few across the board. We’re running a festival to help brand the city of Columbus. We’re not the morality police.”

While I respect what he's saying, and to a degree I understand and even agree with him, I do have a few counter-arguments. Firstly, yes, this is no doubt going to get press for Columbus and for your festival. And I know they say "no press is bad press", but is this really the kind of press you want? Personally, and I know I'm not alone here, I think this reflects poorly on Columbus.

Furthermore, I can't help but be a little shocked and disappointed that R. Kelly's inclusion was "not even a debate". Because that, to me, is indicative of just how severe a problem this is. The man has been a sexual predator spanning possibly more than 20 YEARS. This was not even an inkling of a moral debate for any of you? To the festival committee, I must ask you to just do a little research on the guy. Be fair. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Then tell me what you believe about him. And then ask yourself, if it was your daughter in those trials, in those videotapes, would you still pay him to perform here?

If we really have such a burning desire to "put Columbus on the map", maybe we should do it by being the only city in the free world that stands up and says we're not okay with victimizing women. Let's make Columbus, Ohio the place where men respect women, and all are equal, and everyone has the right to be who they want to be and marry who they want to marry and can walk down the street at night and feel safe. Wouldn't that be nice? It would also be really easy. Please, Bret Adams and the rest of the FMMF committee, please to the city of Columbus, please to all my fellow bands, let's do the right thing and ask someone else to play.

 

Love, respect, and peace to all of you,

Z Wolf & Bobbi Kitten

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