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Afrika Bambaataa – real name Kevin Donovan – is one of rap’s foremost pioneers. By forming The Zulu Nation – a group of socially conscious and politically aware artists in New York – he became integral in injecting Black nationalism into Hip-Hop. The goal was to inspire future generations of MCs and musicians. They did just that. In 1982 Bambaataa released “Planet Rock,” a thumping boom-bap record that inspired break dancers and a whole 1980s rap sound. It could be argued that there would be no Hip-Hop without Afrika Bambaataa.

But we have to talk about the accusations that he molested multiple teenage boys.

A little over a month ago Ronald Savage – a former member of the New York State Democratic Committee – went public with the accusation that rap legend Afrika Bambaataa molested him at the age of 15. According to Savage, Donovan forced him to engage in oral sex. Soon thereafter Hassan Campbell came forward and said that Donovan molested him several times in the rapper’s home. More men who opted to stay anonymous came forward, discussing how Bambaataa would force himself on them and perform oral sex on the teenaged young men, who are now in their 40s and 50s. Then Bambaataa’s bodyguard came forward and said he knows of “hundreds” of boys who were victims of his sexual assaults.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the story or not. What I do know is that not nearly enough people are talking about it. And that’s not acceptable. Regardless of if Donovan committed any crimes or not, we need to at least discuss the accusations. What’s incredible is that, for the most part, people aren’t defending Bambaataa. They aren’t speaking out against him. There’s just…silence. Especially from Black men.

Regardless of what White feminists or Black men or anyone else wants to say, it was largely Black women who spoke out against Bill Cosby after the accusations arose of him drugging and raping women. Black women blew the whistle on Twitter, wrote articles and called out Cosby despite his status as a seemingly unimpeachable figure in the Black community. And many women were publicly ostracized and abused for “wanting to see a Black man fall” or whatever. We even had the whole Facebook rumor that Cosby was only “targeted” based on a fictional story that he tried to buy NBC. As much as it was important to listen to all of the facts of the case, it was just as important to attack misogyny and violence against women.

Black men need to take up the same charge when it comes to sexual assault, especially when it comes to cases like that of Afrika Bambaataa. Because one in six Black men have reported being molested as children and we need to protect them. Molestation of Black boys is the dark corner of our experiences that we just don’t talk about. Maybe because it’s scary. Maybe because we feel like it’s emasculating. I’m not sure, but I personally know too many Black men with stories of female babysitters having sex with them when they were far too young and never confronting the fact they were molested. And stories of men molesting them don’t get told because of the shame and hurt that comes next. Because males don’t get molested. They have sex with women and enjoy it or they shut up about when men violate them.

I remember watching The Carter documentary in 2009 and being disturbed by Lil Wayne’s story of his mentor and father figure, Birdman, and their relationship with sex. At one point Lil Wayne stands in a room full of people and tells them about the time he was forced to receive oral sex in front of other adults. He was 11.

I got raped when I was 11, Twist. And I loved it. I ain’t never press charges. I’m a do you like [Birdman] and them did me. I’ll never forget that day. They was all in the kitchen. I was scared. I’ll never forget the words, “suck Lil Wayne lil’ d*ck. I was sitting on the couch. Everyone was in that b*tch. Those n*ggas was talking ‘girl you know you such a good d*ck sucker…I ain’t never had this happen!

I walked out that b*tch felt like I killed five n*ggas, ran through three banks, I was a different man after that. I was Lil Wayne.

In the clip he laughs the incident off. That scene always stuck with me. Wayne appeared to be admitting to what was at best an inappropriate moment of sexual activity involving adults. And nobody said anything. There was never a story about it. No questions. Nothing.


At least he managed to get the story out. When it comes to Black boys being molested by Black men, the stories don’t get told and the boys aren’t given any safe space to find help. We have to set a precedent for Black boys to feel like they’ll be protected, loved and nurtured when they speak up about sexual assault. The Afrika Bambaataa situation is a case study on why Black men stay silent. Just look at the most prominent response to the allegations.

KRS-One is the most famous man to speak up about the allegations against Donovan and his response was a troubling perpetuation of rape culture:

“For me, if you keep it hip-hop, nothing can be taken away from Afrika Bambaataa,” he said. “But if you want to dig into dude’s personal life and accusations that’s being made and so on, personally, I don’t give a f–k.”

“If somebody was harmed or whatever, y’all gotta deal with that s–t. That don’t stop what you did for hip-hop. It don’t take away none of it. History is history. But deal with that. That’s personal.”

In 30 seconds, KRS-One established why Black boys can’t find justice or peace when they’re sexually assaulted: “y’all gotta deal with that,” “deal with it,” “that’s personal.” And still beyond the accusations, hurting Black boys doesn’t take away from someone’s legacy. There needs to be a thousand Black men speaking up for these boys and against sexual assault for every idiotic KRS-One comment. There needs to be a united front of support and courage in facing sexual assault and the Black boys it victimizes. We as Black men need to be able to stand up and look other Black men in the eye and tell them that they can’t continue to victimize Black boys and girls. We have to do a better job at this. We’ve been silent too long in protecting Black women from sexual assault and haven’t even begun to adequately broach the topic of Black men who have had to live through sexual assault.

I get it. We want to uphold our legends and are tired of the constant bombardments against Black people who find success. But what’s more important is protecting Black bodies. And I don’t care how many anthems Afrika Bambaataa made or what his contributions to Hip-Hop are, his fame will never be more important than keeping Black boys safe.

Again, I don’t know if the accusations are true. But the least we as Black men owe these other Black men is the decency of hearing them out and advocating for their safety. Because otherwise how much do Black lives really matter to us?



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