The Universal Zulu Nation’s co-founder Amad Henderson officially addressed his constituency regarding the future of the organization’s leadership. According to a video statement released to members Saturday morning, Henderson is now the head of the Universal Zulu Nation, marking the official and public removal of founder and former leader Afrika Bambaataa.
Though a statement released on their website yesterday alluded to changes in the structure of the organization, Bambaataa had not previously been directly named, and the council had not officially distanced themselves from the Hip Hop legend, nor publicly addressed the molestation allegations against their former leader.
“The official statement comes from us, right here,” said Henderson, seated underneath a banner bearing the official Zulu Nation insignia. One member went on to read a written statement. Four other members of the council sat and stood around them in solidarity.
“We the supreme and World Councils of the Universal Zulu Nation, who has the only authority, are taking this time to address the membership and global community in regards to Afrika Bambaataa’s role in our organization,” said the member. “We are publicly announcing official removal of Afrika Bambaataa from the Universal Zulu Nation, based on the numerous allegations of molestations.” The statement also emphasized that Bambaataa had not been the group’s official leader since 1994.
The Zulu Council had previously stood behind Bambaataa’s vehement denial, even as recently as Wednesday. Amidst internal strife, members of the Nation were concerned that acknowledgement of the claims would undermine their public image. During the “Universal” meeting in Harlem on Wednesday Night, a member of the supreme council publicly addressed representatives from several local and national chapters, claiming to speak for the council “under executive order.”
“I think it is very important that all the members know what’s going on,” he said. He emphasized that the council “does not stand for” the allegations against Bambaataa, and encouraged members to keep up with their chapter leaders and continue their positive and charitable work under the Zulu banner, despite questions many of them may have regarding their leader.
He went on to challenge the loyalty of those who would choose to distance themselves from the group saying, “For those people who wish to leave, you was never really with us from the beginning.”
An outraged constituency demanded answers from Bambaataa himself, who did not attend the meeting because of threats of violence. The dedicated members, deeply hurt and angered by the allegations, needed to hear from the man himself. “If the head gets chopped off, the body falls,” said one member, “At the end of the day, we’re all dedicated Zulu nation members in here. We do everything for Zulu. It ain’t about checking our loyalty. Our loyalty is there.”
“You only need to speak about your truth,” said the councilmember in response, “Don’t get caught up in this.”
By Friday, however, the council had already issued a public statement on their website, and in Saturday morning’s statement, they made their position on the allegations crystal clear. “We as an organization cannot allow these allegations to tarnish the name or the legacy of the Universal Zulu Nation. We take these allegations very seriously because we a youth-driven organization with a mission of saving young lives through the advent of Hip-Hop culture.”
The Zulu Nation will continue to serve the community under the name adopted upon its founding. Internally, it has begun to develop ways of addressing the long lasting effects of Bambaataa’s actions on current and former members.
While some members have left the Nation already, others are trying to figure out ways to fly the flag without the negative association the scandal has brought to it. Some are calling for a complete overhaul of the council. For now a change in leadership and strategic removal of those closely affiliated—who may or may not have know something—is underway.
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A previous version of this article misspelled Amad Henderson's name.