Afrika Bambaataa & The Universal Zulu Nation Scandal: The Secret History
Afrika Bambaataa at a benefit for funk legend Bernie Worrell in a rare DJ appearance [photo by Kenneth St. George for Okayplayer].
On April 8th, 2016, Ronald Savage went public with accusations that hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa had sexually molested him as a youth. Three weeks later, the Universal Zulu Nation issued an apology to multiple alleged victims who came forward with similar stories. What follows is the Secret History of everything that happened in between.
For 43 years, the Universal Zulu Nation has positioned itself as the moral compass within hip-hop culture. Co-founded by Kevin “Afrika Bambaataa” Donovan and Amad Henderson in the South Bronx in 1973, the Universal Zulu Nation was hip-hop’s first cultural organization. Their motto of “peace, love, unity and having fun” was adopted as a rallying cry around the world by b-boys, breakbeat aficionados, DJ, rappers and aerosol artists.
In recent months, though, a series of troubling allegations of sexual abuse have risen in Bambaataa’s name and threatens to rip the collective apart at its foundations. Direct conflict over how the allegations were addressed have split the New York old guard who make up the Zulu Supreme World Council, and rank-and-file members who accused leaders of complicity in covering up Bambaataa’s alleged pedophilia. The fallout has resulted in several high-profile Zulu Nation members renouncing their membership. The Supreme World Council has apparently resigned, leaving the organization’s future in disarray.
I. The Accusation.
Rewind the track back to March, when Ronald Savage, a former Zulu Nation “crate boy” known in the streets as “Bee Stinger,” tweeted that he had been molested by Bambaataa decades ago. Savage’s 2014 self-published book, Impulses, Urges and Fantasies, recounted his abuse by a well-known hip-hop DJ, yet at the time the book had not revealed the name of his abuser. Savage said that Amad Henderson asked him to take down his revelation, which was made on Twitter, as a favor. Other high-ranking members of the Zulu Nation, according to Ronald Savage, offered him upwards of $50,000 for his silence. A promise was offered to him where the Universal Zulu Nation would set up a meeting with Bambaataa. Weighing the offer, Savage decided that his need for closure “wasn’t about money,” and was more about him getting peace of mind.
Savage kept the secret hidden deep down inside, a burden that was tearing him apart and damaging his personal relationships with women. He had intimacy issues as a result of his abuse. He stopped returning calls from Zulu Nation affiliates and even considered ending his own life. Internal Zulu Nation sources paint a picture of frantic activity behind-the-scenes to reel Savage back in during this time, between March and April of this year. Upon looking at Amad Henderson’s Twitter log, there was no evidence of a mounting crisis. On March 29 of this year, though, Henderson tweeted, “Reflecting on the importance of life. My goals. My visions. My legacy.” Two days later, Savage appeared on Shot 97, the internet talk show of Troi Torain (better known as Star of Star & Buc-Wild fame). Savage told Star that the former Black Spade member made him perform oral sex on him and other males. It was also said that Bam performed oral sex upon the then-teenager…