It’s been years since the disturbing allegations of pedophilia and child abuse against musician Lance Taylor, aka Afrika Bambaataa, and his Universal Zulu Nation organization were brought to light. A decision in the sex trafficking lawsuit against him is still pending.
In the interim, Hip Hop Stands With Survivors, a collective of advocates, former Zulu members, and sexual abuse survivors, banded together to protest Bambaataa’s involvement and his works being displayed at the Universal Hip Hop Museum (UHHM) in the Bronx this Monday.
“This problem with the Zulu Nation is indicative of a bigger problem in hip hop,” said writer Leila Wills at the protest held adjacent to City Hall park. She likened the situation to 2018 rape allegations against music mogul Russell Simmons and other major hip hop figures who attempted sweep their victims under the rug.
Abdul-Malik Mikail, 45, a former Zulu member spokesmen, said that he was involved with the Zulu organization from when he was 14 to 37 years old. Visibly shaken at the podium, he recounted his time with the “cult”-like gang culture in the Zulu community. He said there may be trophies or Polaroid photos of others with these alleged victims that implicate their involvement.
“I’m not going to stay quiet like a lot of you punks,” said Mikail at the protest. “This block should be flooded with people.”
The museum’s founding members include Executive Director Rocky Bucano, Shawn Thomas, Kurtis Blow, Bambaataa, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Grand Wizzard Theodore, Mickey Bentson, and Joe Conzo, Jr. The group demanded that Bucano resign and Bambaataa memorabilia be removed from the museum. They said it is a conflict of interest to have public city and state funds support an “accused pedophile.”
In an extensive letter to Mayor Eric Adams, Wills and activists detailed their grievances.
“Any form of sexual abuse is reprehensible, and we condemn any individual or organization involved with these acts,” said a City Hall spokesperson in response to an Amsterdam News inquiry. “After allegations surfaced, the Universal Hip Hop Museum assured the administration that they cut ties with the Universal Zulu Nation and that Afrika Bambaataa has not had a role at the Universal Hip Hop Museum since 2016. Our administration stands with survivors of sexual abuse.”
Instances of child molestation of young Black boys in the music industry were by no means unknown decades ago, said advocates. Everyone knew, but no charges were or have been officially filed.
University of Pennsylvania law professor at Marci Hamilton said that people of color are “vastly underrepresented” when it comes to being victims as children. She said there’s no chance there’s less abuse in these communities; it’s that most people will not come forward. Hamilton said the courts are currently experiencing a backlog of cases due to a combination of COVID and “bureaucracy.”
“Typically, the victims feel threatened, and this is a group of survivors that have been severely threatened and are standing up,” said Hamilton. “Children are collateral damage in these systems and it’s time to stop enablers.”
Advocates at the rally who know the victims said that many were not exactly “altar boys”—that they did engage in crime and gang activity as youths, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve justice for being abused as adults.
“Many times, Black and Latino men get raped, molested as little boys, and their culture tells them not to go to the police. Their culture tells them not to tell anybody, be tough, suck it up,” said Gabar Rodriguez.
Allegations reportedly first cropped up in former Zulu member Ronald Savage’s 2014 memoir. Then Troi “Star” Torain, from the Star and Buc Wild radio show on Hot 97, spoke about it publicly.
Activist Anton Edwards, 61, said he found out about the allegations from a friend who lived in the building where Bambaataa resided in 2014. “I learned the hard way over time that the organization was not what it pretended to be,” said Edwards at the protest, “One of them on the phone actually told me, ‘Well, it wasn’t like babies, it was like 10-, 12-year-olds.’ And this is what we protect.”
More alleged victims came forward—up to 15 men, saying that Bambaataa had molested them as children by 2016.
In 2019, New York State law extended the statute of limitations for the Child Victims Act, which allows for prosecution even if the acts occurred decades previuosly. An anonymous defendant, named John Doe, was the first to file a lawsuit in 2021 against Bambaataa for sexually abusing him and allowing other men to abuse him in the 1990s when he was 12 years old.
Bambaataa has not responded to the case that’s awaiting a final verdict and has adamantly denied allegations. He reportedly considers himself an “intergalactic lord” who “practices a form of Moorish law that rejects the jurisdiction of United States courts.”
In an interview in 2021 on VLAD TV, Melle Mel casually confirmed the existence of homosexuality during that time, and also insinuated that sexual child abuse was rampant. He said that “it’s not like people didn’t know” and that maybe it was “hip hop’s best-kept secret.”
The Amsterdam News reached out to Universal Zulu Nation for comment. There was no response by post time.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.
It’s beyond disturbing that this code of silence within many Black communities extends to the rape of children. Perversion is a horridly ascending cycle and will always require escalation. Mysogyny is/was no longer enough to satisfy. Why is this case stalled in the court system?
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Bambaata Survivor Ron Savage Breaks Shocking Details Encounter
They are always mentioning my family and me. Mickey was on the phone and Mickey saying I’m trying to destroy a brand that I helped build, but no one says anything about Star on the audio when he threatened me and stated also about his brand he put on the line for me, it’s the same thing, where is the smoke for Star, who also stated in a post on his youtube channel when speaking about me and Bambaataa is it molestation or gay love gone wrong? Leleia will claim that the hundred or so slanderous posts on me are because I stated that I didn’t believe the John Doe Story of Hassan Campbell got the John Doe and I caused her to lose subscribers on her Youtube channel, no!, Star caused that and herself after she named the title of her film she is desperately trying to sell “The Zulu Nation The First Gay Family Of Hip Hop.” Absolutely, I said what I said about the john doe because when I heard about him last year, I was like, hold up, that’s what Lelia Wills advised me to say, that Bambaataa sex trafficked me across state lines. Lelia Wills and Star have been slandering me since I refused to pursue their agenda; reportedly, they also found someone else. I Ronald Savage would like to sincerely apologize to the Hip Hop Museum because I understand Lelia Wills was trying to find any way she could to slander you and was asking for your records to do so and made many allegations against you with no facts, I humbly feel so sad because these attacks came upon the Hip Hop Museum right after Lelia Wills who made up a website with the words Hip Hop to allegedly have power in the name behind her and called for her youtube subscribers to do the same apparently After she found out that I Ron “Bee-Stinger” Savage was performing for First Dime Booking at the Hip Hop Museum, she went crazy on the museum event saying they had a Zulu Nation party at the museum that night, which is a 100% lie and slander, this was an event that the museum had nothing to do with, it was a showcase to showcase people in the community music talent, she was even trying to find a way to attack First Dime Booking.
It seems if Lelia Wills can’t use you or you go against her fight against the Zulu Nation and or Bambaataa you are a pedophile or in some way connected to the Zulu Nation who has done nothing to me. Lelia saw my performance at the museum, and yes, I did say afterward, “The Zulu Nation Is In The Building, disregard what you heard, I’m in the building.” She then reportedly directed her hatred for me at the museum and anybody close to me since I refused to go along with their agenda for the Zulu Nation, allegedly, and yes, I fully support the Zulu Nation. You should be ashamed of yourself, Star and Lelia, for assaulting a survivor.
Then she got mad at me because I said I forgave Bambaataa because after me and one of my best friends Zulu Jeff who she lied again to make me look bad and told people he was my “handler” reminded me of when I was 15 years old I told everyone that I was 18 years old even he thought at that time I was 18 years old because I got myself a fake ID to get into the clubs because I wanted to be down and that is what I believe Bambaataa thought. Well, I did what I did; nobody had to compel me to do it.
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