Jan 11, 2024

'Guru' denies being cult leader, says he doesn't know people missing from St. Louis County

‘Guru’ denies being cult leader, says he doesn’t know people missing from St. Louis County

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Katie Kull

January 10, 2024 

ST. LOUIS — A self-described spiritual guru and prophet said from prison on Wednesday that he doesn’t know the six people who police say disappeared from a north St. Louis County home in August and that he isn’t the leader of a cult.

Berkeley police on Tuesday accused rapper and nationwide spiritual leader Rashad Jamal of being the leader of a cult that played a role in their disappearance.

But Jamal, whose full name is Rashad Jamal White, told the Post-Dispatch in a wide-ranging phone interview from a Georgia prison, where he is serving an 18-year sentence for child molestation, that his “University of Cosmic Intelligence” is simply a spiritual YouTube channel.

“I’m just giving you my opinion on a plethora of different subjects: from metaphysics to quantum physics to molecular biology to marine biology to geography to Black history to world history. I’m giving you my opinions on these things,” he said. “That doesn’t make me a cult leader.”

Three St. Louis residents — 25-year-old Mikayla Thompson, her cousin 36-year-old Ma’Kayla Wickerson, and Wickerson’s 3-year-old daughter Malaiyah Wickerson — and three other people — Naaman Williams, 30, of Washington, D.C.; and Gerrielle German, 27, of Lake Horn, Mississippi, and her 3-year-old Ashton Mitchell — left a rental home in Berkeley after they were served eviction papers in August.

They were last seen Aug. 13 at a Quality Inn in Florissant, and police on Tuesday said they were part of a cult that might have played a role.

Jamal said Wednesday, in what he described as his first media interview in years, that he found out about the accusations from a TV report and wasn’t surprised that police had put a “target on my back.”

“I am pretty sure I have never met these people,” he said. “I get on my phone and I give a lecture. I go live, and then I get off the phone. I do not know the people that are in my live(stream). It’s too many people.”

‘The esoteric wisdom of the cosmos’

Jamal grew up in Chicago, where he said he was surrounded by violence and poverty. He watched those around him deal drugs and struggle with addiction, so he turned to poetry and rapping to share his message.

He moved to Atlanta in 2017 in pursuit of a record deal. He said he wanted to give back to his community, but he became disenchanted with the record industry.

Still, he has released two studio albums — “Only the Real Gon Relate,” released in March 2022, and “Promethazine and Pain (Based on a True Story),” which dropped three months ago.

The album cover for “Only the Real Gon Relate” is a re-creation of the famous Malcolm X photo where the civil rights leader is dressed in a suit and peeking through a curtain with a long gun in hand.

Jamal’s most popular song on YouTube on his personal page is titled “God Talk.” The song, released in August 2020, has more than 300,000 views. The video bounces between scenes of Jamal rapping, news clips and Jamal meditating near a river surrounded by bamboo.

The opening scene in the video defines the song’s title as: “To teach someone the truth about the origins of humans, the Gods, the planet, the secrets of Black people DNA and to enlighten one about the esoteric wisdom of the cosmos.”

Jamal said he decided to be more vocal about his beliefs in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. He said he felt compelled to be “a voice of all people who have been oppressed.”

That’s when he created a YouTube page called The University of Cosmic Intelligence, which shares a name with the company he founded to sell lectures, classes and paraphernalia, including crystals.

That page has almost 200,000 subscribers, and includes hourslong, sometimes rambling livestreams by Jamal about the nature of the universe, the power inherent in Black and Latino people, and the enemies he says are out to get him.

He regularly calls himself a prophet, messiah and a god in the videos, which garner hundreds of thousands of views.

‘Almighty God knows the truth’

Jamal said Wednesday that he sometimes grows tired of being persecuted by the people who run the world, including those in Hollywood and the media. But he finds solace “standing in righteousness.”

“We have done this throughout time,” he said. “If you decide to stand for what’s righteous, they will come after you.”

In 2021, Jamal was indicted in Barrow County, Georgia, on two counts of child molestation and a charge of cruelty to children, according to court documents. He was arrested nearly a year later and was ordered held without bond because a judge found he was a flight risk and could pose a danger to people in the community.

Prosecutors also noted that Jamal had previous convictions out of Wisconsin for domestic battery, as well as disorderly conduct and strangulation and suffocation in a domestic abuse case in 2018.

But Jamal’s followers continued to rally behind him, signing online petitions and posting on social media.

“This is cruel and very unusual punishment,” one petition said, “and we have done everything in hopes that Rashad Jamal gets the fair (treatment) he so rightly deserves.”

Jamal was convicted after a trial in August of one count of child molestation and another count of cruelty to children and was sentenced to 18 years in prison followed by 22 years of probation.

On Wednesday, he maintained his innocence. He said the allegations were born of jealousy in a child custody dispute and his conviction was a forgone conclusion in a “racist” county.

He said the district attorney even labeled him a “cult leader” in an effort to discredit him during court proceedings.

“It was outrageous,” he said. “When you speak out, they’re going to attack you.”

Now, Jamal delivers his lectures on the phone from prison. He said he is not surprised that people hate him and punish him for his beliefs, noting that people hated Jesus Christ in the Bible and persecuted Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights movement.

“It don’t matter what you call me,” he said, “because at the end of the day, Almighty God knows the truth.”

Alex Valentine of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.



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