NEW YORK -- The Time's Up campaign is taking aim at R. Kelly over allegations he has sexually abused women. The organization devoted to helping women in the aftermath of sexual harassment or abuse issued a call to action Monday asking for further investigation in to Kelly's behavior. The singer has come under closer scrutiny over the last year as women have come forward to accuse him of everything from sexual coercion and leading a sex cult to physical abuse. Kelly has denied such charges.
"We demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly's abuse made by women and their families for more than two decades now. And we declare with great vigilance and a united voice to anyone who wants to silence us — their time is up," the Time's Up statement said.
The statement was issued by the Women of Color committee within Time's Up, which includes Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay, TV mogul Shonda Rhimes and actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell.
The social media campaign #MuteRKelly has sought to stop his music from being played and to cancel his concerts, and Time's Up said it is joining that call.
Specifically, Time's Up is seeking action from RCA Records, Kelly's label; Spotify and Apple Music, which stream Kelly's catalog; and Ticketmaster, which has sold tickets to his concerts. And it is calling for the cancellation of a May 11 concert in Greensboro, North Carolina.
RCA, Spotify, Apple Music and Ticketmaster didn't immediately respond to email requests placed late Sunday night.
R. Kelly's management team responded to the campaign and implied that he was a scapegoat, saying: "R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time's Up movement. We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals -- and in this case, it is unjust and off-target ... Time's Up has neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly's support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts. Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time."
Kelly's team also implied that he was targeted because he is black. In the statement, they said, "R. Kelly's music is a part of American and African-American culture that should never — and will never — be silenced. Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it. We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture."
The Time's Up letter was addressed to fellow women of color. It started by saying, "We see you. We feel you. Because we are you."
It continued: "For too long, our community has ignored our pain. The pain we bear is a burden that too many women of color have had to bear for centuries. The wounds run deep. As Women of Color within Time's Up, we recognize we have a responsibility to help right this wrong. We intend to shine a bright light on our WOC sisters in need."
Time's Up citedlast week for sexual assault as a step in the right direction but said it was "just a start."
In a further statement to The Associated Press, Smollett-Bell said: "We stand linked with our sisters and will no longer tolerate the predatory behavior of R. Kelly to go unchecked. This is a call to action to #MuteRKelly. His music must be turned down and the voices of these brave survivors must be heard."
The organizers of the #MuteRKelly movement said they were gratified that Time's Up was amplifying their cause.
"We will not stop until R. Kelly is held accountable for his sexual misconduct against Black girls and women, and we urge ALL artists, radio stations, record companies, streaming platforms and concert venues to cut ties with this accused predator," Oronike Odeleye, a co-founder of the movement, said in a statement.
R. Kelly, whose hits include "Ignition," "I Believe I Can Fly," "Step in the Name of Love," "Same Girl" and "Bump N' Grind," is one of pop music's best-selling artists. He has also written hits for artists ranging from Celine Dion to Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga. While he's written classic love songs and even gospel music, his work is defined by sexually explicit songs such as "Feelin' on Yo Booty," "Your Body's Calling Me," "Sex Me" and even more explicit fare.
He has long been accused of behavior that has ranged from questionable to criminal. He wed then-15-year-old Aaliyah in 1994. The late singer had been his protege, the marriage was later annulled and the two refused to confirm that it even happened.
He was later accused of child pornography after a widely circulated videotape appeared to show him having sex with, and urinating on, a teenage girl. He was acquitted of all charges in 2008 and continued to rack up hits and sell out stadiums around the country.
In recent years, as more women have come forward to allege misconduct, protests against Kelly have increased.
A woman told Rolling Stone last year that she was in a long-term relationship with the singer that was sexually and physically abusive. Kitti Jones, who dated Kelly from 2011 to 2013, accused the singer of beating her, withholding food from her and forcing her to engage in sexual acts with other women while he recorded them. Jones also alleged that Kelly made her live with two of his other girlfriends while he constantly monitored them with security cameras.
Jones told Rolling Stone she had been living with Kelly for less than a month before she confronted him in November 2011 about the video that was at the center of his child pornography trial. She said he kicked her multiple times and slapped her across the face repeatedly.
"I was putting my hand over my face and telling him I was sorry," Jones says. "He would start kicking me, telling me I was a stupid b***h [and] don't ever get in his business."
Jones also said that later she was housed with other girlfriends and they were not permitted to leave their rooms without contacting Kelly or one of his employees first. She claimed that she and the other girlfriends were not permitted to communicate with each other Jones alleged that because she often got her phone taken away as punishments, she was unable to have access to food for as long as two and a half days.
Jones implored people to believe the accusations against Kelly and said, "I want them to not be so dismissive towards the women that are speaking out. We're not just rolling over out of bed and saying, 'Hmm, let me just make up a story about R. Kelly today. Let me make it sound similar to something that he's already been accused of and put my own remix to it just [because] I want some attention.'"
Parents claimed their daughter was being held by Kelly as part of a sex cult but their daughter, who was of age, denied their claims. And recently a woman in Dallas filed a lawsuit against the singer claiming he gave her a sexually transmitted disease, and she claimed he was grooming her to be a part of a sex cult.
Kelly has denied all allegations against him.
Kelly hasn't released an album of new music since a 2016 Christmas album, and his last true album was 2015's "The Buffet," which had no major hits.
An appearance at a concert in his native Chicago scheduled for Friday was canceled after protests. In a Twitter post on Sunday to his fans, Kelly said he was looking forward to his May 11 concert and had no idea why his Chicago appearance was scrapped.
"I never heard of a show being canceled because of rumors, but I guess it's a first time for everything and I apologize to you guys, and in the meantime, I'm going to try and get to the bottom line of it, as far as my lawyers are concerned," he said in a video.