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Film / TVSex & Gender

russell simmons’ accusers pen open letter pledging not to back down

January 17, 2020
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Directed by Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, the upcoming documentary On the Record tells the story of Drew Dixon, a former Def Jam employee and one of a number of women who have accused music and fashion mogul/yogi Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct and violence ranging from harassment to rape. Ahead of the film’s debut at the Sundance Film Festival, Black women who have stories similar to Dixon’s have banded together to make sure that they’re heard.

In an open letter to Simmons published on The Root, the survivors state: “We’ve kept your secret for far too long to turn back now, and we will not be intimidated by a bully.” The 600-plus-word statement is concise and powerful; in it, the women dispel the myth that Black women’s alignment with the #MeToo movement is somehow a betrayal of Black men, they claim that Simmons uses his yoga practice and apparent spirituality as a smokescreen for his past actions, and accuse him of using his money and influence to bury their accounts of his wrongdoing.

“No amount of spiritual bypassing can mask your actions. There is not enough meditation in the world to offset the violence you inflicted upon our bodies, the irreparable damage done to our confidence as young women, and in some cases, the derailment of our careers. The good that you have done does not erase the harm that you have caused, and the tragedy is that every single one of us was once tremendously proud of you. You built an empire, discovered stars and created Black wealth, but you also exploited, sexualized, and diminished Black women on your way to the top. Your choices have made you rich and powerful, and now you use your disproportionate influence and muscle to overpower us just like you physically overpowered us before. The outcome, however, will be different this time. We’ve kept your secret for far too long to turn back now, and we will not be intimidated by a bully.”

The open letter comes on the heels of Oprah’s dropping her support of the high-profile project which was supposed to debut via streaming on Apple TV+, citing the directors’ decision to screen the film at Sundance before she felt it was complete. There is, however, speculation that Simmons’ campaigning for Winfrey to kill the doc is the real reason for her exit from the project, a claim that Gayle King, Winfrey’s friend, refuted on a broadcast of CBS This Morning this past Wednesday. “She [Winfrey] knows the messages that sends: That she was muzzled. Nothing could be further from the case. She thought the documentary needed to breathe a little bit more and be put in context of the times.”