I stand with you, Justine Skye: A Plea to the Music Industry
Use the darkness of your past to propel you to a brighter future.
– Donata Joseph, Author
In the house that my fiancé and I have built, we both knew right then and there that this morbid act was nothing more than that of a coward. However, the 22-year-old woman from years ago suddenly came back and was easily triggered by and pained from the entire transgression. The pain that I believed I cured through forgiveness; in part to him for inflicting so much harm in my life, and me forgiving myself for believing that I was “weak.” At times, the monster that chooses to invade one’s life is just that- a monster. It was the hardest pill that I have ever had to swallow but I had no choice but to choose myself and my overall safety over humanizing someone that never deserved it.
I’m saying all of this to openly and proudly state that I stand in solidarity with the talented, brilliant, young woman that is Justine Skye. On February 11, 2019, Skye bravely discussed a stalking/premeditated physical attack on herself, her friends, and her boyfriend GRAMMY-nominated rapper Goldlink by model, rapper Sheck Wes and associates. Sadly, this has not been the first acknowledgement of Wes’ behavior towards the young songstress. Justine, I want you to know that your story of survival, recovery, and salvation has not fallen on deaf ears.
In order to properly dissect the severity of Justine Skye’s situation, we must recall an important focal point of her past. Back in the day, Justine Skye was close friends with model, celebrity stylist Ian Connor. In April of 2016, Emory University alum Malika Anderson wrote a chilling, horrific blog-post entitled, “Ian Connor Is a Rapist, and I Know Firsthand.” Anderson’s heartbreaking blog-post included mortifying details of their friendship, the alleged rape, and the grotesque harassment from Connor’s fan base. Unsurprisingly, Ian Connor accused Anderson of being a “scene hoe” and described the blog-post as “karma for finessing every b*tch I came across just to mentally prove a point” in a series of tasteless tweets. Sadly, Justine defended Connor in a deleted tweet that said, “trying to tarnish someone’s name and lying for a quick come-up is never cool or funny do better.” Rightfully so, social media users were appalled and disgusted at Skye’s blind allegiance to an alleged abuser solely based off friendship. This harmful rhetoric is commonly utilized by friends and/or associates of abusers time and time again. It’s usually one of two things; either they truly believe that a friend of theirs could never do such an unspeakable actc, or they simply do not care. The latter just as harmful as the former, if not more. Nonetheless, Justine Skye finally addressed her immense lapse of judgement in a heartfelt letter to the public.
Personally speaking, I genuinely believe that Justine’s letter was not only admirable, but it was also brutally honest about her missteps. She attacked her younger self and acknowledged her present-day situation: it should NEVER have to take experiencing abuse in order to empathize with abuse victims. Also, it’s important for young people to subjectively fail, learn, and reconstruct for their lives moving forward. In this instance, I know that Justine Skye is truly sorry for aligning herself with a person and ideology that is severely harmful to Black women. Cheers to her for recognizing her faults and moving forward in her accountability.
Let’s get into the entire situation from top to bottom, shall we? On October 23rd of last year, Justine Skye released her powerful visual for the heart-wrenching track entitled, “Build (feat. Arin Ray).” The transparent message visits the chilling reality of escaping an abusive relationship and the possibility of “building” the perfect man out of said abuser. Arin Ray’s verse played the role of an abusive significant other that’s aware of his toxic actions but is not willing to let his partner move forward. Personally speaking, the most haunting, yet relatable portion of the song was when Skye thanked her alleged abuser for the actions that were out of her control and reclaiming her time:
“Thank you for wasting my time. Thank you for changin’ my life. Thank you for proving me right. Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for making new souls. Thank you for being that dude. Thank you for leaving those clothes. Thank you for saving my life.” – Justine Skye, “Build (2018)”
Soon after the visual’s release, Justine Skye visited the long-running, controversial “The Breakfast Club” morning show to discuss “Build” in addition to her overall experience with domestic violence. The composure, poise, and eloquence that Skye embodied throughout the interview was remarkable. As a survivor of abuse myself, I was so proud of Skye’s powerful, intellectual demeanor while discussing the levels of her overall situation. Justine covered some important focal points of domestic violence and the dynamics of the experience as a whole:
- Awareness of Alleged Abusers and Actions: In “The Breakfast Club” interview, Skye acknowledges that she knew that her alleged abuser had hit someone before. Justine described how she was “naive about the nature of that previous relationship and thought that he would never hit her.” The reality of the situation didn’t align with her hopeful assumptions so ultimately, the sore truth came to light. When Justine reached out to her friends (the most important foundation outside of family), they turned a blind eye to her problems “because of who it was” that she was dating. She also said that their mutual friends still hang out with him to this day. It’s one thing to experience abuse in any capacity, but there’s another level of grief when your foundation abandons you based off “celebrity” ties. This brings me to her next (if not the most important) point of her story.
- The Lack of Support for Abuse Victims: This is the part of Justine’s interview that truly broke my heart. When asked about her alleged abuser’s identity, Justine cryptically said that Wes’ identity didn’t matter because “in rap culture, people don’t care. It doesn’t matter what the artist did, it’s about how talented they are. And they’ll still be bumpin’ their music.” Skye brought the entire argument home when she stated, “as long as we keep turning a blind eye, keep letting these guys think everything is OK and they’ll still be successful, nothing will change.” This is a straight-no chaser explanation of the protection dynamic that tends to happen with famous abusers. For some reason, “quality” musical contributions are enough to completely validate any man of his crimes. We’ve seen this happen with SEVERAL men in the industry. I would list names but that would honestly take all-day. However, the rap industry would severely benefit from not aligning themselves with these alleged abusers and (wait for it) maybe show support towards abuse victims. There’s severe accuracy in what Justine Skye stated about silencing victims of assault and the entire act is heinous.
On the other hand, I was furious at how the interviewers conducted this interview. Surprisingly enough, radio personality Charlamagne tha God was the only person that utilized empathy, research, and accountability while interviewing Justine Skye. Charlamagne not only addressed his experience as a past abuser but utilized that information in validating Skye’s position as an abuse victim. I applaud him. When it comes to radio personality Angela Yee, I was quite furious with her conduct during the interview. Yee felt the need to share her abuse story with Justine (which isn’t a problem in itself) but it was the harmful discourse that followed. Angela’s reasoning for not reporting her abuser was because she “didn’t want to be responsible for putting another Black man in prison.” This is the reasoning that has silenced victims and frees abusers from any wrongdoings. This ideology will never excuse the constant violence that’s inflicted onto innocent people. Also, it didn’t help that Yee’s departing words to Justine were, “I hope that you get the help that you need” in a patronizing tone. This interview was an opportunity for Angela Yee to be an ally for another young woman in the music industry and she completely missed the mark.
Source: Justine Skye Photographed by Eric Henderson, IG: @edotxx
Through the darkness and pain, Justine Skye has been able to find a love that is nurturing and kind to her through her recovery period. On January 10th, Grammy-nominated rapper Goldlink performed a touching, powerful freestyle entitled “Justine’s Interlude” via the widely successful COLORS YouTube channel. In the freestyle, Goldlink reminisced about the rigorous healing process that Justine had to endure in addition to being a reliable partner during that time. He also coyly addressed Sheck Wes’ alleged actions with smart jabs and strategically hit the Harlem Shake while exclaiming, “Harlem Shake on these niggas, nah mean? Bitch ass niggas.” There is true power in a supportive, understanding love that subjectively frees you from past trauma. I commend Goldlink for being a reliable, loving partner in Justine Skye’s journey as a young, Black woman navigating this commanding music industry.
When it comes to an abuse survivor and the overall recovery process, there is nothing more triggering or mortifying than a “run-in” with one’s alleged assailant after the fact. Unfortunately, Justine Skye had to experience this horrifying occurrence firsthand. On February 11, 2019 (post-Grammy weekend), Skye, Goldlink, and a group of her friends were stalked/attacked by Sheck Wes & company during an afternoon walk.
In a series of (rightfully so) enraged tweets, Justine called out Wes for his consistent violence against women, his “pathetic” demeanor, and his disgusting lies on her name. On the one hand, I was incredibly proud of her for finding the strength to address this person head-on. On the other hand, I automatically felt fearful for her and her overall healing process as a DV survivor. Sheck Wes’ response to Skye’s claims were (unsurprisingly) deflecting of his alleged actions. Wes claimed, “he had never hit or beat any women and that he did not beat up or jump anybody.” Knowing that she was not with any games or mess, Justine Skye had her visual receipts in line and ready for combat. Justine posted a text screenshot with one of Wes’ friends in addition to a video of Wes forcefully entering Skye’s backyard. Wes denied the abuse claims yet again in addition to asking Skye to “show her bruises” in a now deleted tweet. I will keep it frank- There is no sympathy for anyone that utilizes trauma porn in order to deflect from his or her accountability.
The aftermath of the vicious attack has been a bit saddening yet hopeful for Justine Skye. Skye documented her mission to obtain justice immediately after the alleged premeditated attack. Justine expressed her frustrations with law enforcement (via Instagram) during said process. Sadly, abuse victims usually run into this roadblock when reporting their assailant. It hurts to know that police enforcement does not provide safe spaces for victims in times of fear and turmoil. Thankfully, Justine Skye has reportedly been granted a 100-ft restraining order against Sheck Wes until a court hearing this month. This restraining order provides a temporary solution to a lengthy problem for the young songstress. So, where do we go from here?
Survivors of abuse deserve better. They deserve empathy. They deserve to have their space to heal fully. They also deserve to obtain the justice that they rightfully deserve. These are my hopes and wishes for Justine Skye & her loved ones. In regards to Sheck Wes, I want a few things for him. First, I would like him to take accountability for his harmful actions. Deflecting and skirting around the issue is severely offensive at this point. There is a real opportunity for Wes to learn from his destruction and to evolve into a truthful man. However, this optimistic result will never happen unless Wes faces the consequences of his ways. This applies to not only him but to the people/infrastructures that protect Wes’ vicious tendencies as well. It takes a village to get away with that amount of destruction. It also takes a village to do the right thing in times of adversity.
It has been long overdue to be proactive allies to survivors of abuse. Let us all rise to the occasion and ACTUALLY stand up for what is right. Miss. Skye, I want you to know that I SEE you, I hear you, I empathize with you, and ultimately, I commend you for your efforts in obtaining justice. When I was your age, I wish that I had an inkling of your strength in reporting my abuser to authorities as well. I guess that you can say that the 22-year-old version of myself obtained her closure by living a fulfilling, understanding life of her choosing. I want to thank you for your tireless efforts in obtaining the safe space that you have always deserved. Justine Skye, I stand with you.
Written by Court Kim, Edited by Imani Shante
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