Airing on Lifetime, the six-hour groundbreaking documentary series, Surviving R. Kelly, shares the appalling stories of women who claim they have suffered at the R&B singer’s hands.
A panel of three Webster University lecturers at the Ghana campus—Kobina Ankomah-Graham, Erinn Ransom Ofori and Eli Tetteh, as well as Kinna Likimani, Director of Special Programs, Odekro and Nana Akosua Hanson, a prominent Ghanaian Actress and Broadcaster—explored the theme, Celebrity, Complicity and Community: Making Sense of ‘Surviving R Kelly’ at the 14th public lecture held at Webster University’s Ghana Campus.
Collectively, the panel of five pop culture scholars pointed out society’s collective complicity in failing to hold celebrities to account.
Presenting her lecture, Erinn Ransom Ofor, noted that this is a time for critical reflection, introspection, and honesty with ourselves and our values as a society. “Unless we are in a habit of thinking critically and conscientiously about this kind of issues, then we as a community will continue to be complacent,” she argued.
Eli Tetteh encouraged men to have empathy for survivors and also make the decision to stand publicly with the less powerful and less privileged. He urged that “responsibility lies in the hands of all men and it is up to us as men to hold ourselves accountable.”
Kobina Ankomah-Graham, who also served as the moderator for the event, shared compelling statistics on the complicity of African societies on the issues of abuse against women in general. “Attitudes, beliefs, and cultural practices which place men above women have led to a ‘casual’ overlooking of violence against women,” he said.
Joining in on the panel discussion, Kinna Likimani noted that the Ghanaian society rides on a number of misconceptions that give room to the rise of abuse. “The burden of proof in the court rarely favors the victim because the law is always about power,” she added.
Nana Akosua also blamed the justice system for not being proactive in dealing with perpetrators of abuse. “The reason for the #MuteRKelly is because there isn’t enough justice done to perpetrators,” she noted.
The Campus Director of Webster Ghana, Christa Sanders Bobtoya, emphasized the importance of these lectures, saying they are a way of getting qualified professionals to open dialogue on important issues in the society. “We strive to intellectually engage our students on a daily basis by equipping them with critical thinking, public speaking, and ethical reasoning skills,” she added.
As a way of lending support to victims and survivors, a resource list containing information on counseling centers, psychologists, and government agencies focused on women’s rights across the country was provided for all participants.
The event attracted significant representation from feminist groups, selected high school and university students, counselors, educators, media representatives, diplomats, and the public at large. Contributions from the discussion were tweeted as well as live streamed on Facebook throughout the evening.