R. Kelly has been pulled from the lineup of Columbus’ inaugural Fashion Meets Music Festival following negative reaction from both bands and sponsors in regard to the R&B artist’s headlining spot on the bill.
Kelly was scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 29 in Nationwide Arena. After the festival announced Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kennedy, as the headliner, two Columbus-based rock bands, Damn the Witch Siren and Saintseneca, announced that they would no longer perform at the festival.
Damn the Witch Siren withdrew from FMMF July 3, while Saintseneca withdrew July 23. “We feel (R. Kelly’s) selection as a performer ignores his very serious allegations of sexual violence and assault,” Saintseneca wrote in a post on its website. “We feel it is an affront to all survivors, who are already often overlooked and forgotten in our society.”
In 2002, the R&B artist, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was indicted in Chicago on soliciting a minor for child pornography, seven counts of producing child pornography and seven counts of videotaping the acts. The case stemmed from a videotape, sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times in 2001, of Kelly allegedly having sex and performing sexual acts with an underage girl.
Kelly was arrested in Davenport, Fla. after the indictment was handed down and was released after paying the $75,000 bail. The trial was delayed multiple times. On June 14, 2008, however, a Chicago jury found Kelly not guilty on all counts.
According to a 2013 piece by the “Village Voice,” though, Kelly holds an extensive history of legal trouble and has paid off dozens of lawsuits filed by underage girls claiming statutory rape.
Following Saintseneca’s cancellation, The Columbus Dispatch reported that Columbus radio station WCBE (90.5 FM) was reconsidering its sponsorship of the festival. The station’s general manager, Dan Mushalko, said he would like to see “public dialogue” about sexual assault prevention, but R. Kelly’s appearance at FMMF “just won’t fly,” he told The Dispatch.
In a Thursday email to The Lantern, marketing coordinator Richelle McCuen of Mills James Creative Media, a current sponsor of the festival, said that president Ken Mills and the company “recognize the situation, and we’re reviewing our involvement.”
A statement from his publicist on USA Today reads: “R. Kelly is sorry to disappoint his fans but looks forward to seeing them in the near future during one of his upcoming tours.
O.A.R., Michelle Williams, Paper Diamond and Destructo are still set to headline the festival, which takes place in the Arena District Labor Day weekend.