So, how does the NAACP choose to celebrate Black History Month? Among other things, they've nominated alleged rapist, child pornographer and drug addict R. Kelly for their annual image award.
An acclaimed R and B singer, Kelly was charged in 2002 with 21 counts of child pornography after a video that allegedly depicted him having sex with a 13-year-old girl made the rounds. Shortly thereafter a Florida sheriff's detective discovered a digital camera that authorities say depicts Kelly engaging in sexual activity with a minor. The camera was wrapped in a towel and stuffed in a duffel bag in Kelly's residence. That was good for 12 more counts of child pornography, though Kelly's lawyers are trying to get the charges dismissed because authorities were searching specifically for drugs, not child porn. Quite a defense, huh?
Kelly also released an album last year titled "Chocolate Factory." Apparently, it's for his musical work - not his alleged encounters with prepubescent girls - that Kelly is being honored. "It is not (R. Kelly) that is being nominated, it is the album," explained NAACP president and CEO Kweisi Mfume. "It's a soulful album. I think it's going to be accepted by people in different ways."
And indeed, the album has generated widespread acclaim and two Grammy nominations.
Unlike the Grammy's, however, which dole out awards purely on the basis of artistic merit, the Image Awards celebrate positive role models in the black community. According to the official awards statement, "the annual NAACP Image Awards are given to those who strive for the portrayal of positive images and meaningful opportunities for African Americans in motion pictures, television and recording." Does R Kelly really fit the bill? Has he presented a positive image of a person of color? Has his behavior shed a positive light on black American culture? Are these the qualities best embodied by our brothers and sisters?
Absolutely not! In case you don't understand why, let me break it down. If you're not allowed to travel without court approval, you don't deserve an Image Award. If a judge orders you to avoid Michael Jackson (presumably for fear you'll share child porn) you don't deserve an award. If you're continually being charged with child pornography, you don't deserve an Image Award. See a pattern? There is absolutely no valid reason that R Kelly deserves an Image Award. Not unless you want to try to make the argument that criminal charges and investigations into drug use present a model worthy of emulation and praise.