The Universal Zulu Nation announced Friday that they have undergone extensive changes in their leadership a month after its founder and hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa was accused of sexually abusing a teenager in the early Eighties. "As part of this restructure ALL accused parties and those accused of covering up the current allegations of child molestation have been removed and have stepped down from their current positions," the hip-hop awareness organization said in their statement Friday.
Although the announcement did not mention Bambaataa by name, it did allude to his current situation. "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 organization said (via Pitchfork).
Following the Universal Zulu Nation's announcement Friday, Bambaataa's lawyer Charles Tucker Jr. said in a statement to Rolling Stone, "Bambaataa has not been part of the leadership for years. At the end of day we still have unsubstantiated claims from alleged victims who all have seemed to be more focused on self promotion, sensationalism, revenge and some form of payment. There can't be a cover-up from acts that never occurred.
"The real tragedy is that this has drawn attention away from real victims who are abused every day in our country. There was never a pursuit for any kind of justice in this and it stinks all the way around. The agendas of those involved are quite clear, Zulu Nation will continue to do the great work that they do and Bambaataa will continue to work tirelessly combatting all forms of violence and giving a voice to those real victims of violence in communities across the nation of who many in the media seems to have forgotten about."
In April, a man named Ronald Savage claimed to the New York Daily News that, at the age of 15, he was molested by Bambaataa while serving as a "crate boy" for the producer in the early Eighties. Savage, who detailed the allegations in a recent memoir, also revealed to the newspaper that he was offered $50,000 by unnamed members of the Zulu Nation to keep his claims against Bambaataa quiet.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Bambaataa called Savage's claim "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," Bambaataa continued. "These allegations are baseless and are a cowardly attempt to tarnish my reputation and legacy in hip-hop at this time. This negligent attack on my character will not stop me from continuing my battle and standing up against the violence in our communities, the violence in the nation and the violence worldwide."
In the ensuing weeks, three other people stepped forward alleging they were sexually abused by Bambaataa.
Despite not outright condemning their founder, the Universal Zulu Nation organization didn't disregard those making the allegations against Bambaataa. "We also cannot dismiss the comments of parties asserting they have been harmed. We have a duty to search for truth. We also need to be mindful that if these allegations are true that victims discussing this in a public forum has not come easily," they added.
"We the Universal Zulu Nation wish to extend great sympathy to anyone affected by such issues. We know that respect and compassion need to be at the forefront of how we deal with such topics in the future, this has been a lesson in learning for us... We are saddened by current events. Not only because of the trial by social media of which we have been subjected to as an organization, but because until now the previous leaders and founders have been ineffective at being able to respond in a way which our members and associates deserve of us."