#TimesUp for R. Kelly thanks to Ava DuVernay and other brave, badass black women.

In typical badass Ava DuVernay style, the filmmaker is fearlessly taking on one of the #MeToo movement's forgotten foes.    

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.


On April 30, DuVernay joined forces with women of color in the #MeToo movement by declaring support for #MuteRKelly, an online call to action demanding that Live Nation and Sony Music to drop R&B singer R. Kelly from his recording contract and cancel his tour dates.      

‌Other incredible black women celebrities, including Lena Waithe and Shonda Rimes, are joining the cause, too, according to a statement also released April 30.

Kelly's disgusting behavior has been well documented though largely ignored.

For decades, multiple women have accused the popular singer of aggravated assault, statutory rape, and harassment.

In 2000, Kelly was accused of statutory rape and numerous other charges followed in the years after. Most recently, reports surfaced of Kelly running a "sex cult" that entailed Kelly holding young girls against their will, and controlling their every move with only minimal impact on his career. Instead, Kelly has often been the brunt off of-the-cuff jokes.

To make matters worse, Most of Kelly's victims have been black women, and have yet to receive any sort of justice.

Photo by ‌Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images.‌

The dude is gross, and thanks to DuVernay and other amazing women of color, time may finally be up for Kelly.

Photo by Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images.‌

Finally, calls to investigate Kelly and bring him to justice for his sexual misconduct appear to be sticking: The singer was recently dropped by his publicist, lawyer, and assistant. Slowly people are distancing themselves, and DuVernay will likely push that further.    

DuVernay is certainly no stranger to fighting for social justice.

The director and filmmaker has spent a large part of her prominent career fighting against America's prison industrial complex and advocating for increasing the number of women of color in film.

Importantly, she's also made it clear in her career that women should no longer be holding themselves back to appease society. ‌

Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images.‌

"Women have been trained in our culture and society to ask for what we want instead of taking what we want," DuVernay said in a 2015 BlogHer keynote speech. "We've been really indoctrinated with this culture of permission. I think it's true for women, and I think it's true for people of color. It's historic, and it's unfortunate and has somehow become part of our DNA. But that time has passed."

According to a study from the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, black girls and women 12 years old and older experienced higher rates of rape and sexual assault than white, Asian, and Latina girls. Given the fact that black women and girls experience heartbreaking rates of sexual assault but are less likely to report it, DuVernay's stand matters more than ever.  

When powerful women use their platforms to raise awareness and demand change, the world responds.  

As the country continues to evolve in how it responds to sexual assault, it's important that we uplift all women who are survivors and make sure that their voices are heard.

DuVernay is doing just that.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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