Cornell University Library’s Hip Hop Collection has appointed Bambaataa as a visiting scholar for a three-year term. He will visit the Ithaca, New York campus several days each year to “meet with classes, talk to student and community groups, and perform.” https://www.Cornell.edu This marks the first faculty appointment of a Hip Hop pioneer at a major university and who is more qualified than its Amen-Ra? Cornell University Library, the largest national archive on Hip Hop culture, documents its history by preserving photographs, recordings, flyers and more.
They chose Afrika Bambaataa because he grew up in The Bronx River Projects, with an activist mother and uncle. As a child, he was exposed to the black liberation movement, and witnessed debates between his mother and uncle regarding the conflicting ideologies in the movement. He was exposed to his mother’s extensive and eclectic record collection. Gangs in the area became the law in the absence of law, clearing their turf of drug dealers, assisting with community health programs and both fighting and partying to keep members and blocks on lock.
Bambaataa was a founding member of The Bronx River Projects-area street gang The Savage Seven. Due to the explosive growth of the gang, it later became known as the Black Spades, and Bambaataa quickly rose to the position of warlord. As warlord, it was his job to build ranks and expand the turf of the Black Spades. Bambaataa was not afraid to cross turfs to forge relationships with other gang members, and with other gangs. As a result, the Spades became the biggest gang in the city!
After Bambaataa won an essay contest that earned him a trip to Africa, his worldview shifted. He had seen the movie Zulu and was impressed with the solidarity exhibited by the Zulu in that film. During his trip to Africa, the communities he visited inspired him to stop the violence and create a community in his own neighborhood. He changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim, adopting the name of the Zulu chief Bhambatha, who led an armed rebellion against unfair economic practices in early 20th century South Africa that can be seen as a precursor to the anti-apartheid movement.
He told people that his name was Zulu for “affectionate leader”. A young Afrika Bambaataa began to think about how he could turn his turf-building skills to peacemaking. He formed The “Organization” as an alternative to the Black Spades. Along with other DJs such as DJ Kool Herc and Kool DJ Dee, he too began hosting hip hop parties and formed the Zulu Nation, which became the Almighty Zulu Nation, and then the Universal Zulu Nation which is not a gang but what is now the oldest, largest, and most respected grass roots Hip-Hop organization in the world!