Over the past few months, allegations have been mounting—allegations we’ve neglected to cover here at The A.V. Club, for which we apologize—that Afrika Bambaataa, New York-based DJ and a seminal figure in the development of hip-hop, sexually abused a series of young boys throughout his career. The New York Daily News details allegations from four men, now in their 40s and 50s, who say Bambaataa molested them repeatedly when they were young teenagers. The boys were staying at Bambaataa’s Bronx apartment at the time, fleeing troubled home lives.
Bambaataa has vigorously denied the allegations. And at first the Universal Zulu Nation, the hip-hop awareness group started and formerly led by Bambaataa, stood by its founder, calling one of the accusers, Ronald Savage, “mentally challenged.” Now, though, the group has made an abrupt about-face, and has publicly apologized to Bambaataa’s alleged victims. “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 statement, signed by three dozen members of the group’s leadership, reads.
The apparent schism in the group reportedly comes from an intergenerational conflict: Older members of the group, many of whom are personal friends of Bambaataa’s, remain loyal to their ousted leader, while younger members are more inclined to believe his accusers. Pitchfork reports that there was a change of leadership at the organization in May—a change which included ousting Bambaataa—presumably sparking this new change of stance.
Either way, currently there is no legal recourse for the alleged victims, as New York’s statute of limitations says that victims of child sexual abuse can’t file criminal charges or civil litigation against their alleged abusers after the age of 23. So an internal investigation, which could very well be forthcoming—“Most of the membership would like to hear what the victims have to say,” Zulu King EL One says—may be the best these men can hope for at this point.
Savage, for his part, isn’t satisfied with the apology, telling Spin it’s “too little too late” and “they should have done this in the beginning instead of disrespecting me and the Daily News.” Bambaataa and his lawyers have yet to respond to Universal Zulu Nation’s statement.