The R. Kelly Charges Explained

BY EBENEZER NKUNDA

Dubbed the “King of R&B,” R. Kelly is celebrated as one the greatest R&B singers of all time. However, Kelly’s career has been filled with rumors involving abuse, paedophilia, and predatory behavior toward women. Recently, he has been sued on accounts of sexual abuse by multiple women, three of which were underage at the time of encounters. Kelly has denied each of these charges.

On February 22, 2019 a grand jury indicted Kelly on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims all under the age of 17. This indictment came one month after the release of Surviving R. Kelly, a Lifetime docu-series about the women with stories of sexual abuse by R. Kelly, ignited calls to have the singer fully investigated.

Earlier in February, Attorney Michael Avenatti, the representative for an R. Kelly “whistleblower,” handed over to prosecutors a tape featuring Kelly and an underage girl participating in sexual activities. The details of the tape mirror the child pornography allegations R. Kelly faced in 2002; he was acquitted of those charges in 2008. This evidence presented by Avenatti was what ultimately pushed the grand jury to indict the singer.

On Friday, February 22, 2019, Kelly turned himself into a Chicago police station. He appeared in court the following Saturday for a bail hearing set at $1 million, which he was unable to pay until the next Monday. (His lawyer has reported that his finances are “a mess” due to losing his contract and tour dates.) On March 22nd, Kelly’s lawyer requested a delay for the next court hearing. Kelly claimed he had concert dates in Dubai; however, this claim has been denied by Dubai’s government. The next court hearing will take place on May 7th.

The Jussie Smollett Case: A Timeline

BY EBENEZER NKUNDA

On January 22, 2019, Empire actor Jussie Smollett reported receiving a threatening envelope with “MAGA” written in red ink as the return address. Inside this envelope, which was sent to his workplace at Fox production studios on Chicago’s West Side, were cut-out letters spelling “You will die black” and crushed pain reliever. A week later, the actor reported that he was attacked by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs, declared “This is MAGA country,” and hit him before wrapping a noose wet with acid around his neck. Following his report, police searched for hours going through footage but couldn’t find direct evidence of the alleged attacks. However, police did find an image of two men during the time leading up to the attack.

On February 1, Smollett released his first statement since the alleged attack, insisting that he was “100 percent factual and consistent on every level” in his talks with authorities. The next day, Smollett thanked his supporters at his first performance since the incident.

About two weeks after the alleged attack, Smollett appeared on Good Morning America to quell any doubts of the attack’s validity. Later that day, the Chicago Police informed the media that two Nigerian-American brothers captured on video around the time and location of the supposed attack were seen as potential suspects and would be interviewed. However, the next afternoon, the Chicago PD confirmed the innocence of the two brothers, and they were released, leading many to question Smollett’s testimony.

While in custody, the two Nigerian-American brothers gave valuable information that led the Chicago PD to investigate whether Smollett paid the two brothers and orchestrated the whole attack. Smollett responded to these accusations in a strongly worded statement claiming he was victimized.

Two days later, Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. The day after he was charged, Smollett turned himself in to Chicago PD, who set his bond at $100,000. Smollett continues to maintain his innocence.

The day after Smollett made bail, Fox Television released a statement that his character would be removed from the last two episodes of Empire’s current season.

After continued investigation, a Cooke County grand jury indicted Jussie Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct, and on March 14th Smollett pleaded not guilty to all counts. In recent news, prosecutors dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel blasted the decision as a “whitewash of justice,” while various celebrities including Ava Duvernay and Smollet’s Empire co-star Taraji P. Henderson claimed the news validated their support for Smollett. 

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Recipients

BY EBENEZER NKUNDA

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to those who have done honorable efforts in four main areas: arms control and disarmament, peace negotiation, democracy and human rights, and work aimed at creating a better organized and more peaceful world. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both Mukwege and Murad have made meaningful contributions in their home countries and throughout the world to bring attention to these war crimes.

Dr. Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynecological surgeon who is the founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He founded the Panzi Hospital in 1999 as a clinic for gynecological and obstetric care, and expected to be working on issues of maternal healthcare. However, when the Second Congo War began, which took the lives of almost 6 million Congolese lives, rape had continually been used as a weapon, and the amount of sexual violence towards women and children increased drastically. Since 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have helped to care for more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence. The hospital not only treats survivors with physical wounds, but also provides legal, and psycho-social services to its patients in a center called the City of Joy.

Dr. Nadia Murad herself is a survivor of sexual violence. In 2014 she was captured and endured months as a sex slave at the hands of Islamic State militants after they swept through the area of northern Iraq where she lived with her family and killed several hundred people. During her time in captivity, Murad was bought and sold several times and was subject to sexual and physical abuse, including threats that she would be killed if she did not convert to their hateful, oppressive version of Islam. The sexual abuses of the  Islamic State army were systematic, a part of their military strategy, and therefore a weapon of war. After three months as a captive, Murad managed to flee—and she did not stay quiet.

Dr. Denis Mukwege and Dr. Nadia Murad have both risked their lives and the lives of their families by speaking their truth, calling out the perpetrators of war crimes, and seeking justice for the victims. They have continually used their platform to draw attention to the issue of rape as a weapon of war and to speak up for the voiceless in this inhuman human rights violation.