When a loved one dies, the last thing we want to do is dwell on the unsavory aspects of their lives.
Death, above all else, is supposed to be a dignified exit. Drinking problems, extramarital trysts, and explosive tempers take a back seat to the way we want to remember them: as good, God-fearing people who taught us valuable life lessons, saved cats stuck in trees, and helped elderly women cross the street. Few deaths could bring about as much recorded heartache as the recent passing of Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock and Roll.
The news inspired countless tributes from living rock legends and fans alike from around the world on social media. In the same lifetime that he made monumental contributions to music, Berry was convicted of trafficking a year-old girl across state lines in and settled lawsuits filed against him in by several women he secretly videotaped in the ladies room of his restaurant in St.
These revelations, unknown to me until I read about them online in the days after Berry died, have tested my loyalties as a Chuck Berry fan and an advocate for survivors of sexual assault.
In the age of social media, when very little is allowed to be forgotten, we have to find a common ground when it comes to remembering the life of Chuck Berry, both for the fans that are mourning a legend and the survivors who are coping with renewed trauma. Born inhe grew up in a segregated middle-class neighborhood and got into trouble during his teens for stealing cars and committing armed robberies.
Music became his salvation, and it was his musical talents that would lead him out of the dismal future guaranteed to so many young black men at the time. His achievements and influence on rock music made him a hero in the black community and an icon in the music industry.
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He deserves to be remembered for that. Janice Norine Escalanti was only 14 years old when Berry brought her on tour with him in She had an eighth grade education when she ran away from home and worked as a prostitute and a waitress to survive.
According to court filingsBerry had sex with Escalanti multiple times over the course of three weeks while she traveled with him on tour. Escalanti was also Native American, a detail worth mentioning because Native women have historically experienced disproportionately higher rates of domestic abuse and rape, usually at the hands of non-Native men.
In fact, Native American women are 2. The cases involving Escalanti and the 59 women who sued Chuck Berry in for videotaping them without consent in a bathroom have become footnotes in a larger narrative. This is problematic for a couple of reasons.
By not investigating this aspect of his life more thoroughly, reporters and biographers are elevating a very famous man above the concept of getting consent while also dismissing the experiences of his victims. Instead of dismissing the ugliness of what I read, I decided to investigate it further through research and listen to the facts.
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He may have beat the odds to create the sound of rock and roll, but it must have been profoundly painful to watch white artists profit off of his innovative sound while he was in jail. When it comes to remembering an extraordinary life, we need to talk about the good and the bad. His story, like that of other controversial figures, forces us to confront our own feelings about why we get defensive when we learn truths about our heroes that are hard to stomach.
Are we okay with living in a society that downplays the experiences of survivors?
Is there a way we can use our discomfort to have conversations about what perpetuates rape culture and what we can do to make our communities safer? Thoughtful essays, commentaries, and opinions on current events, ideas, and life in the Philadelphia region.
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