Hip-hop/Spirituality/Freethinking. Speaking for all underdogs!
Khalil & Hassan: On Cults, Consequences & Consciousness
By Khalil Amani
The word “cult” originally referred to any ritual, ceremony or liturgy. By this definition, all religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam would be considered cults, but, by the middle of the last (20th) century, the word cult carried a far more sinister definition. The word cult became synonymous with groups like Jim Jones’s People’s Temple, Father Divine, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, San Diego’s suicide cult Heaven’s Gate, headed by “Do,” Waco’s David Koresh, Scientology, the Nation of Yahweh—and, believe it or not, even the Nation of Islam.
Cults remain cults until they receive mainstream acceptance.
With what we now know, we can add the Zulu Nation (even though it isn’t an official religion) to that list of American cults. (Hold that thought.)
The book, Cults and Consequences defines “cult” this way: “It is a group of people who follow a living leader, usually a dominant paternal male figure… as its leader. The leader claims he is divine, God’s incarnate, the messiah, etc. It is a group in which membership is contingent on a complete and literal acceptance of his teachings, doctrines, and dogmas. Membership is contingent on complete, unquestioning loyalty and allegiance to the leader and total willingness to obey the cult leader’s commands without question” (Andres & Lane 1-6).
In a society where you have every “wind & doctrine”—every ism—and every polarizing kind of hate speech and group—from the Ku Klux Klan, who want nothing more than a pure white race and country—to so-called (FBI labeled) “Black Identity Extremists” who are reactionary in words and deeds to a racist society—this kind of society breeds cults—people who feel—(to use Miss Leila Wills’, creator of the upcoming documentary’s phrase, “Trapped in a Culture”)—trapped within this mainstream matrix.
Cult members aren’t “weak-minded,” but rather looking for escapism—looking for an alternative lifestyle—searching for that utopian society—chasing the “Holy Grail” of religio-political human interaction—or simply trying to find one’s “Raison d’être” (pronounced ray-zon det tra and French for “reason for existing”). This is why people join cults! Not because they are weak-minded! Do you know how much strength it takes to forsake the religio-socio-political beliefs of one’s upbringing? True nihilism? The cult member is fed-up with society! Cult researchers say, “All people go through periods in their lives when they are more susceptible to suggestion, and when these periods come, the cults are ready” (2-3).
Such was the case of former Yahweh cult member Khalil Amani—and to a lesser degree, former Zulu Nation member and Afrika Bambaataa molestation victim, Hassan “Poppy” Campbell—both of whom were in cults and did not realize they were in cults until the damage had already been done. Khalil Amani, a 19-year old college teenager who was going through the growing pains of black consciousness who happened upon literature that spoke to his soul. “You are Not A Nigger! Yahweh! God of Gods! Our True history, the World’s Best Kept Secret!” He would join the Nation of Yahweh in its infancy and followed his cult leader, Yahweh ben Yahweh.
For five years, Khalil led a pious life, becoming a faithful member of what became known in the streets as “The Yahwehs”—The Nation of Yahweh. The cult leader, Yahweh ben Yahweh became his (spiritual) father. Khalil had never known the love and affection and attention that Yahweh ben Yahweh shown him. As Hassan’s phrase goes, Khalil let Yahweh ben Yahweh “into his intimacy”—meaning that their relationship became one of father and son. Khalil would fall in-love with Yahweh ben Yahweh. Khalil loved Yahweh ben Yahweh as a son loves his father and because there was a strong religio-salvific component—that love became magnified. Not realizing that he was being drawn into a cult, Khalil swore allegiance to Yahweh ben Yahweh, vowing to protect and even kill for Yahweh ben Yahweh, if need be.
By the time Khalil realized he was in a cult, he was in too deep. Brainwashed and in-love with a man who had done terrible things to many people in the name of God. Four years into the cult, Khalil had his epiphany—that the Nation of Yahweh was a bona fide cult—that Yahweh ben Yahweh was a murderer and a pedophile who had ordered the execution of at least fourteen (14) people.
But Khalil would remain in the cult for one more year. What made him stay?
What makes a woman stay in an abusive relationship? What makes a woman endure getting beat by a man and still stay in that relationship? It’s the same thing! Love! Time invested in that relationship and the hope that things will change for the better. The cult mind is of this same mentality. The cult mind is in-love with the abuser—the cult leader. Like the woman who will take all the abuse her mind and body will allow—and then leave that relationship, so it is with the cult member. Truly, he or she is brainwashed and suffers from some form of “Stockholm Syndrome,” which are feelings of trust or affection felt in cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim towards a captor.
Even after leaving the cult, Khalil felt a certain love and reverence for Yahweh ben Yahweh. Even though Khalil had witnessed the evils of the cult and its leader, a part of him was still enamored with the man who had once captivated his mind for five years. This is classic Stockholm Syndrome.
Enter Hassan “Poppy” Campbell—a victim of Afrika Bambaataa’s nastiness. Hassan was sexually abused by Bambaataa as a pre-teen and teenager. He too, would unwittingly be caught up in a cult of sorts called the Zulu Nation. You could say that he was “born” into the cult of the Zulu Nation—a cult that was birthed from the very Projects of his youth, Bronx River. Unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult members, who scour neighborhoods proselytizing, the Zulu Nation converts to Afrika Bambaataa’s sex cult were born and weened from the pissy and musty hallways of Bronx River Projects.
Afrika Bambaataa became the cult leader of the Zulu Nation. Like Yahweh ben Yahweh, Bambaataa was feared and revered for commanding those around him to “put in work” (kill people). Like Yahweh ben Yahweh, Afrika Bambaataa held sway over his members. Afrika Bambaataa, a once famous rapper used his celebrity as bait to become a sexual predator. Once Bambaataa molested you, you became part of his cult. He would use his converts to carry out his criminality. Hassan Campbell, after being initiated into the Zulu Nation sex cult became one of Bambaataa’s loyal brainwashed soldiers, “putting in work” for the Zulu cult. Bambaataa would call on Hassan’s services in 2013 when Bambaataa was stabbed by a young man for trying to date-rape him. Hassan was summoned to kill this young man. Had it been the first time that Hassan was asked to hurt someone? It can be deduced and extrapolated that indeed, Hassan had hurt other people for his Zulu sex cult leader, Afrika Bambaataa. Why would Bambaataa ask Hassan to kill for him if he had never done anything like that before? This incident was Hassan’s awakening to how deep he was into the Zulu cult. This incident incited something in him that made him start to realize that just like he had been molested by Bambaataa, so too was this young man, who bore a striking resemblance to himself. This killing mission was Hassan’s “Ah ha!” moment of clarity and the beginning of his journey to finally break free of the Zulu sex cult.
Sometimes it is a singular event that jogs the cult member to his senses and sometimes it is a built up of things that can no longer be justified within the confines of the rigidity of the cult.
Knowing that Afrika Bambaataa had gotten stabbed for trying to rape a young man did not move Hassan to quit the cult—just yet, but this would be the event that would make him wrestle with his membership in the Zulu sex cult.
Both Khalil and Hassan had epiphanies, which caused them to leave their respective cults—The Nation of Yahweh and the Zulu Nation. For Khalil, seeing his children and self being abused and coming to grips with the criminality surrounding his cult—and for Hassan—finally recognizing that doing Afrika Bambaataa’s dirty-work put him in a subservient position whereby his very freedom would be compromised.
Leaving a cult is not black or white. In other words, by the time one chooses to leave a cult there is a paradigm shift—yea, a wrestling of mental ideas and issues that have long taken place before the cult member can cut ties and free himself of the mental chains of slavery. This is true in both Khalil’s and Hassan’s cases. The outsider will say, “Why didn’t you just leave when you saw bad stuff?” Or, “Why did you allow him to do that to you more than once?” This is the simplicity and naïveté in which these questions are asked. Khalil knew a full year before he actually left the cult that he was in a cult. It took a year to gather the strength needed to leave. Likewise, Hassan knew from a very early age that he was being abused, but it would take years and odious circumstances for him to break away from his cult. Both Khalil and Hassan have been highly criticized for staying in their cults. The outsider wants clear, concrete and concise actions. They don’t understand the overlapping issues and how difficult it is to go from cult mentality to free-thinking citizen.
Yes! We, on the outside can criticize Khalil for allowing himself to be around the criminality of his cult leader and not taking action to end criminality. Yes! We, on the outside can criticize Hassan for knowing about the sexual criminality of his cult leader and staying. We can criticize Hassan about the way in which he “outed” his cult leader. We call this “hindsight” and “Monday-Morning-Armchair-Quarterbacking.”
Getting out of a cult is a messy “shit-uation!” There are no straight lines and clean getaways. We get out—sometimes kicking and screaming to stay in (as in cult deprogrammers Like Rick Ross [a white man] and Ted Patrick, who steals away people and makes them come to their senses)—and sometimes other people’s actions cause us to act and eventually see our way out (as in the now infamous pop-up video of Hassan airing out Bambaataa after Ron Savage came forth)—and sometimes because the cult runs its course and we grow up.
The Yahwehs and the Zulu Nation were/are cults. After leaving the Yahweh cult—after leaving the Zulu Nation, what happened to these former cult members, Khalil Amani and Hassan Campbell? How did these cults shape their perspectives on life? How did they deal with their former cults, knowing that criminality still persisted? Knowing that murders and child molestation were going on? Like the Ostrich, did they bury their heads in sands of complacency and/or fear? Did these two men feel the need to put an end to the cults?
Khalil Amani was no “street dude.” He was teenage college dropout, husband and father of two children. Conversely, Hassan Campbell was no “civilian”/college kid. He was a high school dropout who ran the streets of New York committing criminality—a man who ran afoul of the law on numerous occasions, evening getting arrested for several murders.
Joining the cult for Khalil was about nationhood, nationality and spiritual awakening. Joining the cult for Hassan was about brotherhood, protection, camaraderie and the need to belong to an organization which curried favor with hip-hop celebrities.
The Yahweh and Zulu cults were very dangerous, but eventually, these two men would take divergent paths in dealing with their former cults. The Zulu sex cult was a rag-tag organization, whose membership was contingent on loosely following Afrika Bambaataa, unlike the rigidity of the Yahweh cult whose leader was absolutely authoritarian. The government never came down on the Zulu sex cult, but Yahweh ben Yahweh’s cult ran roughshod over Miami, killing, by ear removal and decapitation, 14 people in eight years! It took the federal government’s R.I.C.O. Act to bring this man to justice. Instead of sitting on the sidelines and letting Miami’s murder cult be other people’s problem, Khalil made a conscious decision to rid Miami of this cult and took part in the destruction of the Yahweh cult; for he was not bound by any so-called “street code” to keep quiet about the criminality of his cult. He was a civilian. Khalil Amani, being a civilian (i.e. not a street dude, thug, head bussa, hit-man, goon, etc.) took the legal route in dealing with his cult. He cooperated with the government and helped save lives—and in doing so, brought an abrupt end to Yahweh ben Yahweh and his murderous and pedophiliac cult.
(Khalil Amani, Miami Herald on cult 1991)
Conversely, Hassan Campbell, even though he knew his leader was a pedophile and a man who issued “hits” (murders) on people, faced a conundrum. For indeed, Hassan was a street dude. Going to the authorities would be a black-eye on his street-cred. Even though Hassan had come to that place in his thinking that he understood that the Zulu Nation and its leader, Afrika Bambaataa were criminals—at least, sexual criminals—going to the authorities was a no-no. Violating the street code of “no snitching”—coupled with probable undiagnosed Stockholm Syndrome weighed more heavily on Hassan’s heart than doing the right thing and contacting the authorities. This is not a slight against Hassan; for he is a product of an environment that instilled strict codes of street honor over personal introspection and the will to do the right thing above and beyond group-think.
The Yahweh cult was taken down by the collective efforts of Khalil and many others. Yahweh ben Yahweh’s terror lasted ten years and then he was dismantled because there were no street code that ex-members were beholden to. In comparison, the Zulu Nation sex cult was allowed to persist for 40 years because, although the organization committed criminality, several factors allowed Afrika Bambaataa to go unchecked; #1. Members like Hassan were not beholden to a moral code or higher power via a text such as the Bible or Quran, #2. The Zulu Nation sex cult was not looked at as a “cult” at all, but rather a street organization with hip-hop as its foundation. #3. Membership was not made up of pious/religious individuals seeking to do righteousness, as Khalil’s cult and other cults strive for. #4. Membership was made up of thugs, goons, street dudes and gang bangers who want nothing more than to be feared and revered in the streets. #5. The street code of no snitching. This no snitching code is how and why Afrika Bambaataa was allowed to molest Hassan and many other teenage boys. Even the molested boys dared not snitch.
Both Khalil and Hassan have powerful stories of trial and triumph—stories that would leave lesser men in psychological shambles—never fully able to recover from the woes of cult life. Being part of a cult has lifelong and lasting consequences. For Khalil, having to change his identity—and his surroundings. The government moved to save his life by putting him in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Some may look upon his actions as cowardly, but he is here today to share his story with us. His story is told in two books and four national TV shows. Khalil became an advocate for cult awareness and cult survivors.
For Hassan, he became a Youtuber who advocates—not for cult survivors—but for child molestation victims.
There is a sad irony betwixt the stories of Khalil Amani and Hassan Campbell—a twist that brings these two men face to face; That is, this former cult member Khalil Amani was the first person to bring forth sexual allegations against former cult member Hassan’s leader, Afrika Bambaataa. As a hip-hop writer, Khalil was given the story of Afrika Bambaataa being stabbed for trying to date-rape a young Spanish man on April 1, 2013. The following day, Khalil put out a blog on this event. This blog would be the flashpoint—the beginning of the undoing of Afrika Bambaataa’s pedophile ring. The sad irony would be that these two men, Khalil and Hassan, instead of joining forces as cult survivors—as child molested survivors (Khalil had been molested as a child as well)—as hip-hop voices—as YouTubers—as advocates for all children wrestling with sexuality and sexual identity (Khalil is a gay right’s advocate and Hassan has a Transgender daughter)—instead of joining forces and doing the greatest good, Hassan Campbell has rejected Khalil’s outstretched hand—for at least three reason: #1. Khalil sided with another YouTuber over the correct narrative of the Afrika Bambaataa story, #2. Khalil was a federal informant aka snitch in Hassan’s street-code eyes for bringing down the Yahweh cult and #3. Khalil is a gay rights advocate and Hassan is a staunch and rabid homophobe, blaming his molestation—blaming his daughter’s Transgenderism—blaming the feminization of hip-hop—blaming many ills of society on the phantom “Gay Agenda.”
Victims of child molestation—victims of religious and secular cults need counseling, psychological help and therapy. Without these powerful tools, victims who would put themselves out as advocates can do more damage than good. The child molestation advocate must have a clear and concise understanding of human sexuality in all of its variant expressions; for this is more than simply a matter of heterosexuality vs. homosexuality—with heterosexuality being normative and all other sexual expressions as abnormal, aberrant and deviant.
This is the great gulf that divides Khalil and Hassan—the total inclusion of all child molestation victims, whether they be gay, straight, bi, or Trans, as Khalil advocates or only the healing of child molestation victims who identity as straight, as Hassan advocates. Why would a man who has a son that identifies as female (Trans) be a homophobe? Hassan’s first order of business should be to heal his home! For it is said, “Charity begins at home and spreads abroad.” Hassan readily admits that his Trans daughter was molested as a little boy. He blames himself for not being there—for being a “real nigga” in these streets, but can’t find the compassion to succor (comfort) and understand and put his sexual biases aside for the sake of his familial. Not only is Hassan the adversary of Khalil, but the adversary of the very child which sprang from his loin!
At the end of the day, these two men, Khalil Amani and Hassan Campbell’s paths crossed. Call it “God’s Plan” or an act of coincidence. Together, they could’ve been a powerful force in combating the cult mentality and child molestation, but were it not for a difference of philosophical ideas on human sexuality.
On this 5th Anniversary of the Afrika Bambaataa stabbing, we take a deep breath and we “Woosah.” Together or separately, we trod on!
Khalil Amani is "Gay hip-hop's Straight Advocate." A Miami native who writes for Allhiphop.com, DJ Kay Slay’s Straight Stuntin Magazines. He’s been featured in L.A. Times, Spin Magazine, DaveyD.com, DJ Kay Slay's Streetsweeper Sirius XM Radio Show, The Opperman Report, The Biography Channel's, "I Survived a Cult"(2010) and The Biography Channel's, "Escaping Evil: My Life in a Cult" (2013). Amani is the author of seven books, including the groundbreaking “Hip-Hop Homophobes…” (iuniverse.com ’07). Amani majored in English and Black Studies at San Diego Mesa College and the University of Nebraska. Follow on IG @khalil_amani, Facebook, Twitter @khalilamani. Email @firstname.lastname@example.org