This is a case study/account which was written in August of 2003 of a cult in operation in Chicago/Champaign, IL/Detroit, MI/St. Louis, MO and Dayton, OH. Since then, cult leadership has tried, unsuccessfully to intimidate, harass, sue and publicly denounce the author and other former cult members. 2 of the leaders in Chicago (rhodes and travis) and the 1 in Champaign (mowatt) have been forced out of their agency positions, but no criminal charges were ever leveled against them. rhodes has not been seen hardly at all, mowatt is now a professor at the Univ. of Indiana in Bloomington, IN and travis is the executive director of the community-based organization KOCO on the south side of Chicago, which the cult took over from old-guard deadweight leadership in 1999. They have changed their tactics somewhat, but they are still alive and well, despite the minor expose on their activities. Pictures attached.Understanding the Wachanga
The Dynamics of a Cult
Recently an anonymous email was sent to the Champaign Park District about the activities of Rasul Mowatt--one of their employees. The allegations in the email are true, but I am concerned that because it was anonymous, people will doubt its validity and truth. Because of that, I am sending the full email out with this message and commenting in great detail about the full picture of Rasul’s Wachanga cult that has emerged since the email was sent.
Many of us who were in the Wachanga were oblivious to much of this. When some of us—mainly me and another brother—began hearing small bits and pieces from sisters, we went to Rasul and Mpatanishi to get it addressed. Their response was to assassinate the character of the sisters who made the claims and basically create internally loyalty by manufacturing this perception of an external threat to the organization by all these people (mainly women) who had left and were supposedly “organizing against us.” I had heard enough and left. The full sordid story didn’t get pieced together until very recently. Anyway, below is the email sent to the Park District, and afterwards is my more detailed explanation of this cult we were involved in. The explanation is based on research based cult characteristics.
Unlike the person who sent the original email, I’m NOT going to be anonymous. My guess is that the person(s) who sent it was afraid for his or her safety or life. I’m not afraid at all. If they come, then so be it. Anyone receiving this email has my permission to forward it to anyone else you feel should know—with my name attached.
[ K.C.]Original Email sent to the Champaign Park District concerning Rasul Mowatt
We are writing you to inform you of the details behind certain allegations that you may or may not have come across. They concern Rasul Mowatt. We are a group of students at the University of Illinois and after witnessing the sudden departure of several female members of Rasul’s “Wachanga” organization, and some strange behavior on his part, we conducted a nine-month investigation. Most of our information comes from interviews we conducted with several former members of the Wachanga organization. Actually, one of them approached us first, and we decided to talk to other former members to verify the truth of what he told us. They talked to us with the understanding that their names would not be mentioned. Here is what we found:
Rasul is one of two leaders of an organization called the Simba Na Malaika Wachanga. The other leader is Fundishi Mpatanishi and he is based in Chicago and works out of the American Friends Service Committee. They also operate under the name “African American Community Empowerment Program.” Most former members describe their experience as like being in a cult. Whether it is a cult or not, Rasul has a few things to answer for. He has been accused of the following:
People who left Rasul’s organization (Wachanga) were barred and/or strongly discouraged from participating in public programming that takes place where Rasul or other members of his organization worked (Douglass, U of I African American Cultural Center, James Jordan Boys and Girls Club in Chicago, etc.). He has used other members of his organization to harass and intimidate former members who attend programs in these institutions. For example one former member who continued to coach soccer at Douglass after he left Wachanga was met at the door by Rasul and told that he was not to return. Rasul also ordered Douglass staff members (those who were still in the Wachanga) to follow former members around in order to make them feel uncomfortable when they came to Douglass.
He has engaged in fraud. For example, people in Wachanga have had their hours padded at Douglass and were instructed to give the extra money to “the organization.” Rasul got the money from the paychecks for those extra hours. In addition, some people even gave him money for time that they actually did work. They thought that this money was going toward some good organizational cause, but now believe that he was using it to pay for things like his car note and his designer suits. They do not have proof of that last part though. But they do know that he told them that they were obligated to give their organization part of their park district salary. Afraid that this would get out, Rasul began telling people that there was a rumor that he was taking money from current employees paychecks. But that is not what he’s being accused of. He’s being accused of taking money from the checks of his former organizational members whom he set up to work at Douglass. Most of them have left the Douglass Center as a result of his abuse and manipulative behavior, so as far as we know there are currently very few if any organizational members working at Douglass for him to take money from.
He also had a worker at Douglass fired in order to cover up for his own ineptitude in dealing with budgetary decisions. This worker was a member of Wachanga, so she kept quiet about it.
Also, he has held two full-time jobs for at least one year. Our understanding is that he’s done this without informing either employer. He worked out an under-the-table agreement with one person in the local NAACP leadership to get paid to be the full time NAACP State Voter Registration Coordinator while he was full time manager at the Douglass Center. Most former Wachanga members believe he gave a kick-back to this local person, but we have no proof. Rasul then got members of Wachanga to do most of his voter registration work for him while he collected the paycheck. We do not believe that this reflects badly among the local NAACP chapter as a whole. It seems that only one person in the organization was involved in this scheme so we don’t feel that the organization’s reputation should suffer for it. In fact, some believe that the one NAACP member himself might have been manipulated or blackmailed by Rasul to coerce him to go along with this scheme.
On campus he has attempted to manipulate students and student organizations to control and take credit for our work. He has lied to us, and attempted to isolate some group members from others to make it easy to manipulate members of our organizations.
He has also attempted to sabotage the work of people who were formerly involved in his organization by spreading rumors, or using his influence to deny them access to certain programs and venues.
He used his position as “trainer” in the Wachanga to coerce women in the organization into sexual situations and acts while isolating them from others who could have helped them. Many of these women worked in some form or another, in the Champaign Park District or other local organizations. You may remember a time when several women (and some men) in positions connected to Rasul or his work left your organization over a period of 5 months or so. Most of them left town soon afterwards and said nothing about why they left because they feared for their safety. Also, if a member of the Wachanga decided to quit that organization, Rasul immediately used other Wachanga members to bully them into quitting their positions, especially if it was a Champaign Park District position.
Unfortunately, most of the former members of this organization are afraid of what could happen to them if they come out publicly to speak up about what they went through with Rasul and the Wachanga. There are still some hardcore members of Wachanga who will do whatever he tells them to do. It is for that reason that most former members will not speak out publicly against him.
Because this email is anonymous, we accordingly do not expect you to believe any of this without evidence. But we do expect that these allegations are serious enough for you to investigate them for yourselves. Proof of his two full time positions should not be hard to find. If you know of any men or women connected to him who left Champaign or left your organization suddenly, then track them down and see if they are willing to confide in you. Unfortunately, most of them were isolated, so they may not necessarily know everything that is included in this message, but they should be able to verify parts of it.
We do not know how deeply involved the rest of the members in his organization are in his unethical activities. The former members we’ve talked to told us they knew very little of what he was doing while they were still a part of it, and the parts they did know seemed like isolated incidences to them until they left the organization and began talking to other former members. They say that Rasul kept them isolated from one another very effectively while they were still in this organization. Most of them thought that Rasul was dedicated to the “community work,” and that was why they got involved in the organization. After it became obvious to them that the community work was a cover for his own misdeeds, they left.
Our own conclusion is that Mr. Mowatt is a very sick human being and needs help before he destroys other lives and further tarnishes the image of those numerous individuals and groups who are sincere in their efforts to help the local community. Until he gets that help, our feeling is that he should not be in any positions of power or influence over anyone. We hope that an investigation of these matters takes place soon and will do our part to encourage witnesses to come forth should such an investigation be launched.A more detailed explanation of the Wachanga Cult
Prepared by [K.C.]
None of the information below is third hand. I either witnessed it directly, or was told by someone who experienced it or directly witnessed it. I did not include any information that is further removed from the source than that.
Since the above email was sent we’ve found out the perversion and manipulation by Rasul, Mpatanishi, and leaders of the organization in other cities (i.e. Terry Kennedy [aka “Kasisi” in St Louis) is much more widespread and systemic than we had known. Many of us former members have reconnected since leaving and talked to one another about our experiences (some members were isolated from one another while still inside the organization so many of us didn’t know what others we going through). Our conclusion is that the Simba Na Malaika Wachanga is a grooming tool for another organization loosely known as “The Society of the Simba and Malaika.” As any expert on cults knows, potential victims go through a “loving” and a “grooming” period where the real intentions of the cult remain hidden and the group presents itself as closely knit and bound by a common purpose. The Wachanga is the “Society’s” tool for doing this. They presented themselves as a community-focused group that works with youth and channeled our energy into the community programs that we were encouraged to set up. For the recruits, this work was real and it gave purpose to their lives. But for the “Society” it was merely a way to get each recruit hooked. Two to three times each week, “Classes” were held to “process” the work members had done. The work, and these classes, were used to identify people who would be vulnerable to intense manipulation. Many people who believed in the organization unquestionably were singled out as examples to the rest of us. These people would be given assignments and more intense “classes” that would put them in almost constant contact with the leadership of the organization.
Below are several researched Characteristics of a Cult. After each one, I will comment on how our experience with the Simba Na Malaika Wachanga fits the characteristic.
Ø When I use the word “leaders” to refer to the leaders of this cult, I’m referring to Mpatanishi (Douglass Rhodes) and his first disciple, Rasul (Norman Mowatt). These are the only two people in the Chicago and Champaign part of the organization who can give an instruction to a member. There is a third person whom they put out as the face of leadership. Her name is Hasani (Jhatayn Travis). But she is just that, a face. She makes no decisions without the approval of Norman Mowatt or Douglass Rhodes. She is also the Executive Director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, but even in this role, follows the direction of Norman Mowatt and Douglass Rhodes on all decisions related to KOCO.
Ø Members of the Wachanga refer to it as “the organization.” When I use the term “the organization,” I’m referring to Douglass (Mpatanishi), Norman (Rasul), and in St. Louis, Kasisi (Terry Kennedy). Because, in the end, “the organization” is basically and expression of the will of these individuals.Characteristics of a Cult & Stages of InvolvementAnd how the Wachanga Exemplifies them
Below are several researched cult characteristics. Below each characteristic, I give a detailed explanation of Wachanga practices that exemplify the characteristic.Give loving attention. Someone attending a cult meeting for the first time quickly finds himself the object of attention and loving regard-"love-bombing." Feelings of warmth and acceptance are experienced as the group presents itself as a closely knit family bound together by ties of affection and common purpose.
I already commented on this above when I mentioned that the Wachanga is the “Society of Simba and Malaika’s” tool for doing this. During the recruiting process recruits "ride" with Rasul (in whatever luxury vehicle he is sporting at the time), he takes them to the movies, dinner, on trips for free or at a reduced costs (while active members cover the expenses) - basically a lot of one on one time with the leadership. They presented themselves as a community focused group that works with youth and channeled our energy into the community programs that we were encouraged to set up. For the recruits, this work was real and it gave purpose to their lives. But for the organization it was merely a way to get each recruit hooked. The focus of their recruiting is on college students and college age people whom often are trying to gain a sense of identity and are therefore more vulnerable than other age groups.Grooming or cultivating. If the visitor accepts the invitation to stay with the group, he or she becomes isolated from outside contact and is subject to intense group interaction. The visitor typically receives less sleep than usual, eats low protein food, and, perhaps without realizing it, begins to be exhausted and his or her reasoning capacity is reduced.
Again, as I stated above, two to three times each week, Wachanga “classes” were held to “process” the work you had done. The work, and these classes, were used to identify people who would be vulnerable to intense manipulation. Many people who believed in the organization unquestionably, were singled out as examples to the rest of us. These people would be given assignments and more intense “classes” that would put them in almost constant contact with the leadership of the organization. Their “commitment” was constantly challenged, and this challenge was used to convince them to work 16- 20 hours a day in some cases on organizational projects and programs. Some of them even had assignments to write papers for Rasul when he was in graduate school at U of I. I specifically remember one trip on which organization members got an average of 1 or 2 hours of sleep per night. When they came back, this was touted as an example of their commitment and all of us where heavily encouraged to have a similar “commitment.” In addition to this, there are numerous personal testimonies of “committed” members who worked such hours—and as a result, were sleep deprived and had reduced reasoning capacity. Members are strongly encouraged initially, and eventually instructed to give their resources to "the organization" (which is talked about as if were synonymous with "the struggle") and you will be rewarded later by the Ancestors (who determine your reward based on how much you give). Giving includes your time, money, house, car, employment resources, etc.Intensive indoctrination. During this phase an individual is bombarded with the idea that one's self amounts to very little, that the group and its leader are everything, and that "outsiders" are misguided or hostile and to be feared and avoided. By eliciting confessions of the recruits’ fears and secrets, the cult produces intimacy and emotional vulnerability. A person's feelings of guilt and personal insufficiency are highlighted, and in such a context the idea of being directed by a perfect leader begins to be attractive.
Again, the classes were the starting point for the indoctrination with lessons like “The Seven Sacrifices of a Nationalist,” among which were Self, Family, Career, Money, and Education. This was an actual lesson. In fact, it is a written “doctrine point” as the leaders call the lessons they give. So you’re supposed to sacrifice or give up these things. You give up your self, you give up your family (Rasul once instructed a member to tell me that he had a vision that a member of my family was going to kill me), you give up your career or your job, you give up your money, and you give up your education; all with the assumption that the organization is your self, the organization is your family, the organization is your job, and the organization will give you a real or true education. As a result, several members have failed out, or dropped out, of school. Members are told that their biological family is not "in this” (doing the work to liberate Black people) therefore they are not to be trusted and they don't have your back. They tell the members that if the government/ law came looking for you (because of your "liberation work") your family will be the first ones to “sell you out!” There were “classes” all the time, and as I said before, some people were singled out for more intense classes or assignments where they would be in constant contact with Norman (Rasul) or Douglass (Mpatanishi) and get even more “lessons.” I still vividly remember a “movie class” that they held were we’d watch movies and Rasul would use them to make his points. One time we watched Shaka Zulu and he fast forwarded to a scene where the Zulu leaders ordered their warriors to just stand there marching in place for hours as the white colonizers shot them down. One would go down, and the others would just stand there marching and waiting to be shot. Rasul used this to make his point that we should be like the Zulu—unquestionably following instructions because the purpose of the group was more important than any of our own individual lives. Members were given thousands of “lessons” like these over the years.
Wachanga was a multi-dimensional cult. The leadership was very good at picking out who could be manipulated—what they could get out of a person. So there were some people who remained in the “loving attention” or “grooming” stage for their entire involvement in the organization. All we did was the work that seemed legitimate—the community work at Douglass, the Community work in Chicago, the student programs on campus, etc. They couldn’t get anything more out of us, so they got what they could, while continuing to impress upon us that we had to “step up,” “sacrifice” or “give more of ourselves.” We had no idea of what the more “committed” people were going through.
People in leadership positions outside of the organization were constantly talked about as “agency pimps.” The leadership of organizations like the Urban League, the Black United Front, the NAACP, Greek Letter organizations, Black Student Unions, etc. were portrayed as people who had no commitment to Black people, but whom were just “in it for the paycheck” or for their resume. The Wachaga was portrayed as the “best thing going.” Leadership constantly said “You ain’t going to get this nowhere else.”
The description above says “A person's feelings of guilt and personal insufficiency are highlighted, and in such a context the idea of being directed by a perfect leader begins to be attractive.” In terms of personal insufficiency, in the Wachanga nothing you do is ever enough. Some imperfection is always highlighted. An occasional praise is given, but for the most part--especially for “committed” members--there is a regular practice of yelling at, criticizing and demeaning them. In terms of guilt, the organization ironically uses young people’s natural desire to engage in sex and intimate relationships as a means to manipulate a person’s feelings of guilt and make them feel like they need to be guided by this leader whom is supposedly very disciplined and doesn’t engage in these things. Members are told that abstaining elevates the spirit. But of course, intimate relationships are a basic human need, so they do not abstain; and when they don’t this is used to produce feelings of guilt. Ironically, the most thoroughly brainwashed members are told almost the exact opposite during the latter action stages of their involvement: they are told that sharing physical energy with people who’ve developed themselves spiritually (Rasul or Kasisi—and possibly Mpatanishi), would help them in their own personal development.Action. At this point a critical moment arises as the guest, by now a seeker, is requested to take some action. This may involve confession of guilt or weakness, a renunciation of past behavior, and a pledge of loyalty to the group and to its leader in particular. Pressure to evoke a "concrete" expression of commitment typically follows. For example, Peoples Temple members were induced to sign away property holdings, bank accounts, and even their children to the cult. One former member recalled: "After you've made a commitment of this magnitude, it's hard to admit you've made a mistake, and you'll go to great lengths to rationalize what you've done."
This is where the true nature of the “Society” that leads the Wachanga comes out. There are various stages of “actions” that a member is encouraged to take in order to get them to further and further submit to the will of “the organization.” The first action is simply having to inform the organization of actions you want to take related to organizational programming. This seems legitimate, but is just to prepare you for further actions stages. The next stage involves actions like informing the organization of travel plans that you have and calling in when you arrive and return. A further action stage involved having to get pemission from Rasul or Mpatanishi when you wanted to travel. An even further stage involved getting permission to call or visit other members of the organization, especially if it was at night. Those of us who resisted these things or just didn’t do them consistently were not subjected to further actions stages. But people who did these simple things without complaint got much more demanded of them in the latter action stages. Some had to call Rasul or Mpatanishi a certain amount of times each day and report on their activities. If more “committed” members wanted to move in together and share an apartment or home, they had to get permission and submit weekly reports on their living situation to “the organization.” Others, mainly women, had to come to Rasul’s home each night to give reports on their work and the work of others. Ultimately the last submission was the submission of their bodies. The Society members’ ultimate expression of their power over their members is sexual submission. Women who had submitted to all of the action stages mentioned above and indoctrination mentioned in characteristic #3, were told that if they were truly committed, they needed to “share physical energy” with the leadership of the organization. They were told that it would help their personal development. Some women were so thoroughly manipulated that it became part of their regular assignment to allow Rasul to have sexual interactions with them. I know of at least four cases in which men were taken though this process by men in the organization who are in leadership positions—told that they too had to share energy with the male leadership in the organization (after having gone through years of brainwashing and actions stages described above). It would start with touching, escalate over the years to fondling the gentiles, and escalate further to sexual acts. While not a victim myself, this is not second hand information. I have been told directly by at least 9 people who were victims. Plus there are several others whom we suspect were victimized, but have not been able to contact.
There are some who have attempted to separate the Wachanga’s sick deeds from its community work saying “but their members do some good things in the community.” But they cannot be separated. That’s like arguing in favor of a child molester or pedophile by saying “But he buys candy bars for children and takes them to baseball games.” You can’t separate the two--the seemingly good thing is done for the explicit purpose of grooming and gaining the trust of the victim. They cannot be separated.
What angers me the most about this is that they are doing all of this in the name of Black Nationalism. Black Nationalism is a beautiful philosophy. But the inhumane leadership of the organization is bastardizing and misrepresenting it. There actions have given countless people a negative perception of what the “Black stuff” is all about. Another point here is that the leadership has to be separated—in our minds—from the membership. Most of the people who are members are good people who are the victims of intense brainwashing and manipulation. They should not be castigated or despised. Should they ever get the courage to leave, they will need support.
Following are other examples of cult characteristics. Some of them overlap with the ones listed above. Again, members experienced all of these.C Cut off
from the world. Cult leaders and followers are isolated and cut off from normal interaction with people outside the group. They do not have the corrective influence of other perspectives. They lose their ability, and their desire, to verify information the cult gives them. They become alienated from family and friends and have an unhealthy need to belong to the cult group.
As I mentioned above, members were encouraged to sacrifice there families and many lessons would contain intensely negative portrayals of other Black people engaged in community work. Not only were members isolated from their families, they were also isolated from each other. The more committed members were lied to and deceived constantly in order to isolate them from other group members, so there would be no one to turn to when some of the more heinous things would be done to them. Of course, most non-victims did not know about this while we were inside of the organization. We only put this, and most of what is in this email, together after we left the organization and began reconnecting with one another.U Undernourished
--poor nutritional intake and sleep deprivation often characterizes cult members. They are near exhaustion and their resistance is low, so they can be easily manipulated, deceived, and exploited. Inadequate nutrition and sleep is disguised as a special practice or diet to improve health or advance spirituality.
In the Wachanga, the intense work schedules that led to sleep deprivation were disguised as a commitment to doing the “Black” work—the work of liberating Black people. Most of this work had nothing to do with working for Black people, like writing reports, writing Rasul’s papers, getting up early to get verbal reports to Rasul, and countless meetings and classes that led to nothing concrete, etc., etc.L Leadership
is authoritarian and coercive. The leader claims divinity or special knowledge and authority from God or the “ancestors” and often uses deception and has hidden objectives. Unquestioning obedience is expected. This leads the cult follower into total dependence upon the cult for belief, behavior, and practice. He or she loses personal freedom and the ability to make choices.
When two former members of the Wachanga were murdered in the mid-90s the leadership of the organization (Rasul and Mpatanishi) went so far as to suggest that they were killed because they left the Wachanga—that by leaving the organization, they were not following the path that the “ancestors’” laid for them. This point was also made numerous times in the “movie class.” They then warned us not to go against the “will of the ancestors.” In addition Mpatanishi often attempts to give the impression that he is guided by some higher power, which is the source of why he often says “You can’t get this anywhere else” after he makes a seemingly good or “deep” point.T Theology
or beliefs of a cult always involve some unique or new perspectives, and they claim that truth is only found in what the cult says. Cults often promote the "we/they" syndrome, which also keeps members dependent and loyal to the cult.
Aspects of Wachanga that correspond to this characteristic are already mentioned above.
In addition to all of this, the leadership of the organization has gone to great lengths to intimidate people who have left, especially if these former members are still engaged in community work. I personally witnessed—and stopped—an attempt by Mpatanishi and several other members to intimidate a former member. This former member was vending at a local festival in Douglass Park in Champaign, and Douglas Rhodes (Mpatanishi) showed up with seven other men and surrounded him. Mpatanishi told him that Douglass Park was “our shit” and that he had better not show up there again. The purpose of this action was to intimidate us and it is the kind of action that makes the cult’s victims afraid to speak out about what happened to them.
They have to be exposed and stopped. Their leadership is supported with jobs through the Champaign Park District and the American Friends Service Committee. These institutions have to be informed of what is going on in their names and pressured into cutting ties with them. And the people who are still inside this cult have to be supported and embraced when it all falls apart.
[K.C.]The Cult Leader as Psychopath (Excerpts)
Cultic groups and relationships are formed primarily to meet specific emotional needs of the leader, many of whom suffer from one or another emotional or character disorder. Few, if any, cult leaders subject themselves to the psychological tests or prolonged clinical interviews that allow for an accurate diagnosis. However, researchers and clinicians who have observed these individuals describe them variously as neurotic, psychotic, on a spectrum exhibiting neurotic, sociopathic, and psychotic characteristics, or suffering from a diagnosed personality disorder.
It is not our intent here to make an overarching diagnosis, nor do we intend to imply that all cult leaders or the leaders of any of the groups mentioned here are psychopaths. In reviewing the data, however, we can surmise that there is significant psychological dysfunctioning in some cult leaders and that their behavior demonstrates features rather consistent with the disorder known as psychopathy.
Dr. Robert Hare, one of the world's foremost experts in the field, estimates that there are at least two million psychopaths in North America. He writes, "Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret."
In the long run, skills of persuasion (which may or may not be charismatic) are more important to the cult leader than charisma - for the power and hold of cults depend on the particular environment shaped by the thought-reform program and control mechanisms, all of which are usually conceptualized and put in place by the leader. Thus it is the psychopathology of the leader, not his charisma, that causes the systematic manipulative abuse and exploitation found in cults.
Cult Survivors Handbook: [surrealist.org
Cults, by Rich McGee: [www.leaderu.com
Psychopathy and the Characteristics of a Cult Leader: [www.dannyhaszard.com
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/10/2012 09:43PM by rrmoderator.