Hip-Hop World Responds to Afrika Bambaataa Sex Abuse Allegations

Some of the most important (though not necessarily mainstream) names in the world of hip-hop have signed a wide-ranging statement of support for the men who have come forward alleging they were sexually molested as boys by hip-hop pioneer and legend Afrika Bambaataa.

In a statement titled “Hip-hop Breaking the Silence: An Open Letter to Our Beloved Community,” the signees write: “Hip Hop culture, founded in the Bronx in the early 70’s by Black and Brown working class youth, has always existed to facilitate a reclamation of space for the silenced majority and marginalized communities in the face of social, political, and economic oppression. Hip Hop has always embodied the core values of peace, love, knowledge, and unity…. It is with this legacy in heart and mind that we, practitioners, artists, activists/organizers, and scholars of Hip Hop are asking our communities to join us in acknowledging all the victims that have stepped forward to tell their truth.”

Figures ranging from respected political activists (Rosa Clemente; Black Lives Matter, Upstate NY chapter), academics (Prof. Imani Perry; Prof. Mark Anthony Neal) and hip-hop artists (Jasiri X; M.C. K~Swift) are not only showing support for the men who have told their stories, but are also taking this crisis moment in hip-hop to push for tough but necessary conversations about rape culture, ending cycles of abuse, and reinforcing hip-hop’s progressive political framework.


End the Cycle of Abuse

A few of the victims/survivors that have come forward were children at the time of abuse. Child abuse happens because of abuses of power.  Sexual violence is a form of control and domination that is rooted in white supremacy patriarchy.  Many people have been responding to one of the allegations made by stating that one of the victims/survivors was at an age of consent. While it is necessary to address the abuse of power over children, it is also important to acknowledge that control and domination can be exploited over the age of consent.  It is entirely conceivable that Afrika Bambaataa used his power and influence as a prominent hero-like figure in the Hip Hop community to maintain authority, dominate, and abuse people who looked up to him as a mentor and as the “Godfather of Hip Hop”.

What is also being unraveled amidst the allegations is the emasculation of the victimized male which then causes the perception that the survivor “must be gay.”  This fallacy is rooted in homophobia and oppression of LGBTQ and gender nonconforming identities and minimizes the truth of sexual assault against men.

It is necessary that our community focuses our work in preventing sexual violence.  We must challenge sexual violence in our communities and make changes in our values and norms in order to prevent sexual violence by cultivating accountability and restoration, promoting bystander intervention, and creating supportive safe healing spaces for survivors and implement a restorative justice framework into the work we do, only then can we begin to heal.

The full statement can be found here.

Top photo of Jasiri X is courtesy the artist and Hip-Hop Caucus.