The Universal Zulu Nation has issued a new open letter apologizing to the alleged victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by their founder Afrika Bambaataa. The organization also apologized to Ronald "Bee Stinger" Savage and Hassan "Poppy" Campbell, two Bambaataa accusers who were "subjected to unjust and inexcusable attacks on their characters in official statements by our organization when they chose to speak their truths – we hear you, we believe you, and we stand with you."
"On behalf of the members of the Universal Zulu Nation worldwide, who have made their voices heard through their chapter leaders, we extend our deepest and most sincere apologies to the many people who have been hurt by the actions of Afrika Bambaataa and the subsequent poor response of our organization to allegations leveled against him," the Zulu Nation said in a statement signed by dozens of UZN chapter leaders worldwide.
"To the survivors of apparent sexual molestation by Bambaataa, both those who have come forward and others who have not, we are sorry for what you endured and extend our thanks to those who have spoken out for your bravery in bringing to light that which most of us were sadly unaware of, and others chose not to disclose."
Bambaataa has denied all accusations against him, calling Savage's claims "baseless" and a "cowardly attempt to tarnish my reputation and legacy." "I, Afrika Bambaataa, want to take this opportunity at the advice of my legal counsel to personally deny any and all allegations of any type of sexual molestation of anyone," the Planet Rock rapper said in April after Savage's claims were first published; since then, more former UZN members, including Campbell, have stepped forward to accuse the hip-hop pioneer of abuse.
Bambaataa's lawyer, Charles Tucker Jr., called the allegations "meritless" in a new statement to Rolling Stone and said the letter represents an "attempt at legitimacy" for the organization. "We cannot explain or ponder why some from Zulu Nation who clearly [do] not know Afrika Bambaataa put out this statement," Tucker says via e-mail. "Those who truly are in the know and know that the allegations still are meritless at best as attempts from some of the alleged victims for payoffs continue to come to light. There clearly is a power struggle within the organization and this appears to be an attempt at legitimacy.
"For those who are truly members of the organization and all it has stood for and continues to stand for the truth is quite clear; all these attempts to try and create truth have failed," Tucker continues. "To this day, Afrika Bambaataa continues to get support from around the world asking him to continue his work of combating violence worldwide and bringing a solution to real problems and real victims of violence. This is a fact that can't be disputed or distorted and this support which continues even today speaks louder than any letter."
In early May, the Universal Zulu Nation disassociated themselves from Bambaataa as part of an organizational restructuring that saw the group removing "all accused parties and those accused of covering up the current allegations of child molestation" from their current roles in the organization. However, the statement did not mention Bambaataa by name, nor did it apologize to the alleged victims of their founder.
"As an organization we are in a very difficult position because we are being asked to condemn one of our founders based on testimony through social media alone. We cannot do this," the Zulu Nation said at the time. However, with their new statement and firm apologies to Savage and Campbell, it is clear the organization has reconsidered its stance.
Zulu King EL One, the group's coordinator for the New York tri-state area, told the New York Daily News that the initial May statement and earlier denials regarding Bambaataa's misconduct were made by older members of the Zulu Nation who were friends with the DJ. With new leadership in place since the restructuring, members have since accepted that Savage's accusations are credible.
"I think the letter is sincere but it's too little too late," Savage told the Daily News following the Zulu Nation's latest statement. "They should have done this in the beginning instead of disrespecting me and the Daily News."