The New 97.7 Radio Station Mutes R. Kelly

For decades I’ve heard the stories about R. Kelly. Allegations of his abuse of underage girls have only increased over time.

I don’t have cable, so I haven’t seen Surviving R. Kelly but many that I follow on Twitter have been watching it. From what I have read, R. Kelly is a monster with no conscious. I don’t understand how he has gotten away with so much for so long. Maybe now a turning point has been reached. The docuseries has been widely watched.

A ThinkProgress story about the success of the programs describes how part of the problem with R. Kelly is that people literally keep listening to him and not the victims.

What do we do with the theoretically singular and indispensable gifts of men who also happen to be predators? Among diehard fans of some artistic icons, a belief persists that the talent of one man is such a rare and precious resource that must be preserved at any cost. “Separate the artist from the art,” they advise. As if it were so simple, like the latter can be surgically extricated from the body that produced it so as to be cherished all by itself, stripped of its context and consequence.

But with Kelly, the idea of such clean division feels particularly absurd. His music — and the success it brought — lured in victims, charmed a distractible press, and enabled his reportedly prolific and ongoing violence. His art acted as a smokescreen and a bluff.

The #MuteRKelly Movement was started in July 2017 by Oronike Odeleye, when he started a petition to get R. Kelly’s music off the air in Atlanta. The movement has spread and more stations are taking his music off the air.

My favorite local music station here in Boston is The New 97.7. In the past they have played R. Kelly. I admit to enjoying his music over the years. It’s been a standard at parties and weddings for so long. Many of us have good memories tied up in his music. But this man and his music can no longer be celebrated. The more I learn about him, the more it feels wrong listening to him.

A couple of days ago I tweeted at the station and it’s parent company iHeartRADIO asking why they are still playing him and expressing my feelings about his music. Today I received a tweet in response stating, “We have officially pulled R. Kelly from our playlist.”

It’s not a huge consequence. But it’s something. And I’m very appreciative that The New 97.7 has taken a stand. We’re moving in the right direction.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Radio Host: Tom Ashbrook

On Point with Tom Ashbrook, radio and podcasts.

For those of you who regularly listen to the radio and podcasts, you’ve probably heard  On Point at least a few times. If not, you’re missing out! Please tune in!

In my opinion, the show has widest range of topics of any show I’ve encountered. Ever. With in-depth analysis and callers from every walk of life. From the latest news stories to food, books, music — you name it. Tom has covered it. Or he’s about to.

One thing that I especially like is that people of color are regularly included as part of the discussion. Not as a gimmick. Not because diversity is being forced. But because we are part of the fabric of America. Inclusion has been part of the show for as long as I’ve listened to it.

Two shows that I especially enjoyed recently and I hope you’ll check out are: Rediscovering African-American Roots And Cuisine, with Michael Twitty and Black Motherhood In The Spotlight.

Since today is September 11th, it seems especially fitting to have Tom “here” today. That date was also the genesis for his show.

On Point was born in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, when the country was looking for answers and impatient with old certitudes. We still carry that urgency today: to test, challenge and probe. And while we do it, to celebrate the people, arts and ideas that make life a joy.

Today is also an important date for me. It’s my birthday and the 3rd year anniversary for the relaunch of this blog on this domain.

So let’s resume this ongoing series with the 15th interview of You Pick Six and learn some more about Tom.

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What is a favorite childhood food memory?
I grew up on an old family farm in Illinois. As kids, we were put on the big tractors early, and in the hay fields, and we really worked. Coming back to the house from a big day in the fields, I was crazy for all the fresh stuff right in from our garden – asparagus, snap peas, tomatoes, sweet corn. The flavor and fragrance of absolute freshness was so sublime. I can still taste it.

What is a favorite dessert?
Hands down, peach cobbler. But only the genuine, old-school article. I had aunts who were almost Amish. Mennonites, with the big bonnets and all. And they made peach cobbler that had flavors I can’t even name. Subtle, exquisite, caramelized flavors that were other-worldly. They made symphonies with peach cobbler.

How did food become an important part of your life?
Food is an important part of everybody’s life, whether we treat it that way or not. It literally shapes us and our pleasures. When I left home, my palate exploded. Oysters in Boston. Beef tartar in Washington. So many kinds of yogurt and fish in Sweden, the “old country” in my family. Being a midwestern farm kid, there were so many revelations waiting. I went from naive love to amazed appreciation.

A favorite fruit plate from Les Sablons in Cambridge.
A favorite fruit plate from Les Sablons in Cambridge.

What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
Rajahmundry, in south India. I was nineteen, traveling alone way off the beaten path. Looking for an old ally of Gandhi’s who had become a dissident and was lying low on an ashram upriver. I ducked into a very simple restaurant on the main street and managed to use my newly-acquired language skills in Telugu to order an okra curry and raita. Everything was served on a huge banana leaf. That curry blew my mind. Flavor so robust and delicate at the same time. I still dream about it.

What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Thank you, Jesus.

What inspires you?
The human capacity for reinvention and kindness. A few years ago I lost my childhood sweetheart to cancer. I grieved so hard. And ate almost nothing but broccoli and sardines for a year. Weird disaster food, but it kept me alive. Many people helped me profoundly, but then I met one who brought me fully back to life. And an important part of that happened in the kitchen. She made me a happy near vegetarian. Now we cook together every night.

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Thank you so much for participating Tom!

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Photos: Provided by Tom Ashbrook.

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Updated 2/16/2018: Tom Ashbrook is no longer hosting On Point.

Quote of the Week: Fearless

fear quote A few weeks ago, I was listening to Invisibilia on NPR. The episode was about people who were fearless. Had no fear.

I’m pretty sure this is where I heard the quote that fear equals thinking plus time. Take away thinking or time and you cannot  have fear. Fascinating! It stuck with me.

I kind of think it’s true. But it also seems too simple. It could also be the equation for being foolish.

What do you think?

Either way, happy Monday! Hope you have a fearless week!