Back in the days, when the South Bronx was known as the ‘bombed-out Bronx,’ there was a young dude who recognized the power of hip hop, and its ability to unite his fellow brothers from the hood. His name was AFRIKA BAMBAATAA. Like many other youth in hoods around the country in the 70s, Bambaata was originally part of a street organization (what some call, a ‘gang’) known as the Black Spades.
Bambaataa rose to the position of warlord as member of the Black Spades. As a warlord, Bambaataa’s work was to expand the turf of the Black Spades. Known as a peacemaker and an ambassador, he was not afraid to cross into rival areas to build relationships with other gang members, and with other gangs. Through his work, the Spades became a huge force in the city in terms of both membership and turf.
There were many street organizations in the South Bronx at this time. Most of these groups were heavily influenced by the politics of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords. Thus, most gangs took the over the act of policing and governing their territories.
Bambaataa ultimately took the leadership skills he learned as a member of the Spades and formed the Mighty Zulu Nation, which he named after the Zulus of South Africa that fought the colonial rule of the Dutch. Today it is known as the Universal Zulu Nation, with tens of thousands of members in countries across the globe.
The Universal Zulu Nation began in the mid-70s after Bambaataa received inspiration from DJ Kool Herc. He started organizing Block parties, and throwing jams, using his newly formed hip hop organization as an alternative to gang life.
Also known as THE ‘GODFATHER OF HIP HOP,‘ Bambaataa’s legacy is a great one, serving to inspire and direct the work of many to this day. His efforts embody the essence of hip hop as a tool for liberation and self-development.