The six-part Surviving R. Kelly docu-series that aired on Lifetime this month has been a ratings gem for the network. The intense series dug into the embattled singer’s thirty-year career and personal life to uncover a world of pedophilia, family crisis and celebrity manipulation. So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA), as a resource for parents, educator and those who work with youth, wanted to engage in the conversation that the series has sparked. So, we have created a series ourselves that is called “Surviving the R. Kelly Docu-Series”, shortened to #SurvivingtheRKellyDoc. Each article will be a Q & A with an expert or a conversation between educators or parents about ways to talk with young people about sexual predators and other pertinent points that are often overlooked or negated from the narratives we share with our children and youth.
This second conversation is with Tariiq O. Walton, a licensed therapist, author and media personality who has worked extensively with families and individuals around mental health and wellness. As President and CEO of Infinite Possibilities Entertainment, LLC and its many divisions, Tariiq has written, published, marketed, and distributed four books: the novels Broken and its sequel Mister Bachelor, as well as Crystal’s Tears; and the relationship guide It’s Just A Damn Date: Why We Expect Too Much Too Soon (IJADD).
From 2006 to 2008, Tariiq hosted a weekly interpersonal relationship discussion forum at Artmosphere Cafe’ in Mount Rainier, Maryland called Touch Me Tuesdays. Tariiq has more than 25 years of radio and television experience and in 2006, became a co-host on the Saturday night radio call-in talk show Moonman and The Fun Bunch, on WOL in Washington, DC, where he stayed until 2014. Tariiq also produced and hosted Views & Vibes, an arts and culture television talk show airing on CTV in Prince Georges County, Maryland from 2010 to 2015.
Born in Albany, New York, Tariiq graduated from Lincoln University, a historically black institution in Pennsylvania, with a double major in History and Secondary Education and a minor in Sociology. He received his master’s degree in Couple and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland, College Park.
SOYA approached Tariiq before he had an opportunity to watch the docu-series, but, was well aware of the controversy the singer and the new series had evoked over the past few days. He shares his thoughts on the controversy and advises on ways we can use the singer’s documentary as a jump-off point to have meaningful discussion with our young ones.
SOYA: Did you watch the Surviving R. Kelly docu-series?
Tariiq: No, I didn’t have the chance to watch the series.
SOYA: Why Not?
Tariiq: I don’t subscribe to cable services. Also, I work in the mental health field, where I come across these stories and scenarios on a regular basis, in my leisure time I choose to watch lighter fare.
SOYA: What were some of your thoughts about R. Kelly before you watched the series?
Tariiq: Although I didn’t watch the series, before all of the online discussions about the series, I’d lost any respect for him after hearing stories from Chicagoans who verified his tendency to prey on young girls. It reminded me of first-hand accounts I would hear about Mike Tyson in upstate New York and his treatment of women, prior to his rape charge. Those who know…know, and despite your biases, their experiences should be considered and respected.
SOYA: Were you ever a fan?
Tariiq: I was not a big fan of the artist. There were some songs of his, over the last two and a half decades, that I enjoyed (always thought he was an Aaron Hall knock-off).
SOYA: (laughs) Me, too. What is your professional opinion regarding the prevalence of this type of behavior (sexual predation) in our community and its impact on young people growing into adulthood?
Tariiq: This type of behavior is too-too prevalent in our community. Black children, and Black girls, in particular, are extremely unprotected and under-believed, for a myriad of reasons. And it’s proven to be an intergenerational and inter-familial problem.
SOYA: Where do you think this began?
Tariiq: Going back to slavery and the so-called “Breeding Farms”, generations of family members have been victimized by other members of their family (sometimes by the same family member), where such victimization has been kept secret by individuals, not believed to have happened, or dismissed.
SOYA: Has this docu- series or R. Kelly prompted you to modify or consider something you need to add to your practice?
Tariiq: Not at all. I’m very familiar with this subject matter and have been helping people process the resulting trauma for a very long time.
SOYA: How do you think this series has helped (or hurt) the conversation regarding predatory behavior on young people within our community?
Tariiq: I think it has helped a great deal. It’s starting a conversation within our community about a problem that has been ignored or misrepresented by too many of our brothers and sisters for too long.
SOYA: What do you think needs to happen (or happen more often) regarding justice and advocacy for Black victims of rape and sexual assault?
Tariiq: The victims need to be provided safe spaces to share their stories and process their traumas. They need to be believed, empathized with, treated with compassion, and supported throughout their journey of healing.
SOYA: What do you recommend for families watching this together?
Tariiq: Begin to have an honest and open dialogue about your own experiences that mirror some of what was covered in the series. Whether it’s childhood molestation, adult sexual assault, or even an awareness of the seductive charms of cult-like figure, this could be both a fantastic teachable moment for prevention, as well as an avenue towards healing.
What are your thoughts? Add them in the comment section below and join the conversation…
Tariiq Omari Walton is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). His private practice, Insight Marriage and Family Therapists, is based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Tariiq primarily works with couples, specializing in mindfulness, communication, intimacy, emotional awareness, and problem solving. You can learn more about Tariiq at www.tariiqomariwalton.com and www.viewsandvibes.com
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is the founder of So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA) and is a multi-media strategist and professional creative who has built an expansive interdisciplinary career as a professional in higher education, media, student development and the arts. She is also a homeschooling mom. Her new children’s book Mariah’s Maracas is now on sale.