Gazi Kodzo African american man with red hat on

Gazi Kodzo/Facebook

Ex-Black Hammer members detail Gazi Kodzo’s abusive ‘cult,’ which culminated in arrests for kidnapping and sexual assault

Black Hammer's Gazi Kodzo was arrested on kidnapping charges. Former members say it's happened to them.

 

WF Thomas

Tech

Posted on Jul 29, 2022   Updated on Aug 1, 2022, 8:28 am CDT

On Tuesday, July 20, police responded to a possible hostage situation in Fayetteville, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. According to reports, someone called 911 to say they’d been kidnapped.

At least 10 people willingly exited the home, but one remained inside. Police later found the man dead from a gunshot wound to the head. 

Augustus C. Romain and another individual now face multiple charges over the incident. Neither has been charged in the person’s death, which has been ruled a suicide. 

Romain, who faces seven charges including aggravated sodomy; conspiracy to commit a felony; false imprisonment; kidnapping; aggravated assault; and criminal street gang activity, is better known as Gazi Kodzo. The address in question is a home to Black Hammer, the organization Kodzo runs that ostensibly fights for the rights of the oppressed. 

Those that knew Kodzo accuse them of operating it like a “cult.”

Over the past year, former members spoke out against Kodzo, releasing a Google Drive file with testimonials that allege abuse, manipulation, and other frightening behavior. Their online effort has tried to keep people away from Black Hammer, highlighting the experiences they’ve had that left them shaken to their core. 

Black Hammer—which says its goal is to repatriate land to colonized people and supports pan-African ideology—has been better known for its online stunts. It conducted a campaign on Twitter to brand Anne Frank a “Karen” and used social media to live stream its in-person antics. 

In the warrant for their arrest, obtained by the Daily Dot, Fayetteville police say that Kodzo ordered individuals to point guns at two people and force them into a padlocked garage. It’s an accusation that matches testimonial from the Google Drive, where a former member says Kodzo and members of Black Hammer forcibly detained her and often brandished weapons. 

Fayetteville police, in the warrant, say that Kodzo anally raped at least one person at gunpoint. 

While the police were still surrounding the house, but before they were arrested, Kodzo, who uses they/them pronouns, went on Facebook Live, and expressed their excitement at what was occurring. In the live stream, Kodzo claimed: 

“There’s a lot of media out here … this is just going to build me up at the end of the day … If you think that I am concerned or anything like that, you’re out of your mind. At the end of the day, there’s still breath in my body, I still run an amazing revolutionary party, our community is … with us, and now all these news channels are going to want to interview us and we are going to get to communicate about all the great work that we are doing here, so this is great at the end of the day.”

Instead, the day ended with someone dead. 

Prior to Tuesday’s incident, the group’s history also includes a long string of abuse allegations, a recent “coalition” with the Proud Boys, a commune that fell apart in a standoff, and accusations of harassment across Atlanta’s many college campuses. 

Behind all of this is the self-styled “Commander” Kodzo.

The group and Kodzo itself attracted members and gained media attention through its extensive and aggressive use of social media. The organization has an unabashedly confrontational style, using Instagram to directly threaten police officers and call for the Supreme Court to abolish integration. 

black hammer intergration
Black Hammer/Instagram

Just as it has grown online, so too has the backlash. Alongside the Google Drive, campaigns cropped up on Reddit to warn members of the group’s efforts, and several Twitter accounts began documenting concerns over the group, 

With Kodzo still now indicted on multiple charges, it’s unclear the future of Black Hammer.

Kodzo is currently awaiting a bail hearing and could not be reached for comments. The Daily Dot was unable to discern if they had legal representation who could speak for them. 

Multiple inquiries to Black Hammer, through its social media and contact form, went unanswered for this piece. 

. . .

Savvy, who went by that name when she was with Black Hammer, says she feared for her life when she began to leave the organization, which she joined when she was 22. In a video testimonial shared with the public via Google Drive and later in a video interview with the Daily Dot held before the most recent events at the Black Hammer House in Fayetteville, Savvy described her experience. 

Savvy joined the organization in March 2020, moving in with a chapter of the group in North Carolina, later moving to Colorado, and then finally Georgia. After beginning as a social media content producer for Black Hammer, Savvy rose through the ranks of the organization. Eventually, Kodzo handpicked Savvy to serve as his personal chief of staff.

Her role as a social media content producer for the group played an essential role in the growth of the group, which attracted members through its aggressive posting. 

A year-and-a-half after joining the group, Savvy, who had been growing disillusioned, says she awoke to Kodzo screaming at her, demanding she go outside. When Savvy went outside, she said members of Black Hammer began removing Savvy from the organizational chats and telling her she could no longer live at the Hammer House, what the group called residences in the suburbs south of Atlanta. The Hammer House Savvy lived in was a different rented home than the one where Kodzo was arrested. 

Kodzo had forced members of the group to relocate before, according to the testimonials released, and now Savvy was being told she needed to move in with a branch of the group in North Carolina. 

She says she picked up a knife and screamed at members, departing the house. Although she wanted to leave the group for good, she eventually relented after Kodzo called her days later and asked her to come back. In her own words, Savvy stayed “in order to save people,” moving in with a chapter of Black Hammer in North Carolina.

Once Savvy arrived in North Carolina, she says Kodzo ordered the group to visit the Atlanta area, bringing Savvy right back to the house she escaped from. There, Savvy says she found a paranoid Kodzo on high alert, closely watching the group and brandishing guns. 

Savvy planned yet another escape, this time fleeing the Hammer House in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm in August 2021.

Since leaving Black Hammer for good, Savvy’s said her tires have been slashed. She’s shared images from a targeted online harassment campaign, with her name, address, and Social Security number being spread. Savvy said she was forced to hand over that information at gunpoint.

Solimar said to the Daily Dot that they spent two years in the group and were in close contact with Kodzo, having joined seven months after the group was founded in early 2019. Solimar said they were present for both of Savvy’s escapes and confirmed the story to the Daily Dot. Solimar themselves said they witnessed abuse within the group and had to orchestrate their own escape. In the midst of being moved around the country by the group’s leadership, Solimar organized in secret, coordinating with people they trusted, who booked a flight and allowed them to slip away. 

. . .

Black Hammer exists as an extension of their leader, Gazi Kodzo, born Augustus C. Romain Jr. in Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1986. Kodzo has adopted previous personas and identities. 

One of the first personas adopted by Kodzo is that of “Smiletone,” a wannabe YouTube celebrity who Cosmopolitan magazine said emailed them and called them Cosmo’s “Self-Proclaimed #1 Fan.

A former member who was Black Hammer’s “chief of agitation” described above all else a desire for internet fame by Kodzo, saying they’d become a “clout demon.”

The mission of the group is ostensibly to repatriate land back to oppressed people, with Black Hammer saying it “represents breaking the chains of colonialism and building a self-determined future for all colonized people worldwide.”

But their social media chief said in a recorded testimonial that the “addiction” to likes and retweets triumphed over any actual mission. And it left him jaded, with Kodzo destroying online partnerships he’d built.  

Since Black Hammer began in early 2019, former members said that “everyone” has left the group, although no numbers are available as to how many people remain and how many have departed. 

A group of these ex-members (including Savvy) created the video and written testimonials describing the abuse they said they experienced, which was publicly released

Three of the co-founders also wrote and released a formal disavowment of the group and a condemnation of Kodzo. 

In the disavowment, the co-founders highlighted the idealistic vision at the center of the group’s founding and placed the blame squarely on Kodzo for transforming the group “from a vehicle of liberation to one of abuse and toxicity,” motivated by their desire for money and fame.

Throughout the documents, co-founders and ex-members describe the use of control tactics that they say Kodzo adopted in an effort to keep his grasp on the group. 

Black Hammer gained its first bit of incendiary fame with Kodzo’s April 30, 2020 tweet attacking Anne Frank as a “Becky” and a “Karen.” This tweet became part of a longer social media campaign by the group to stir up attention. 

The group went on to announce their intention to burn The Diary of Anne Frank. As detailed in an extensive expose by Red Voice, the action was part of Black Hammer’s “Operation Storm of White Tears.” An alleged leaked document from the group describes a plan to “manufacture a controversy around Black Hammer to popularize our narrative.”

. . .

According to members, Kodzo’s behavior shifted as people continued to leave the group. One entire chapter of members says they broke off from Kodzo’s central leadership, citing mismanagement of funds and repeated abusive behavior from Kodzo.

According to Savvy, inside the Hammer House, a series of different houses rented by the group in the Atlanta suburbs, a closet full of guns would sit at ready, guns that Kodzo and other members were not shy about showing off online.

Members were not allowed romantic relationships with non-members and Kodzo dictated who would be romantically involved, according to the Red Voice expose. In another former member’s testimonial, they described threats of violence and armed members not allowing people to leave.

Savvy described in an interview how Kodzo, holding a gun and backed up by armed members of his defense, forced other members to sign over control of the group’s bank accounts to Kodzo. 

In late 2020, Kodzo launched Black Hammer’s “Revolutionary Church,” where they adopted the persona of a revivalist preacher. The meetings, held in a park in downtown Atlanta, were also live streamed on the Black Hammer YouTube channel. 

With the Revolutionary Church, Black Hammer attempted to reach out directly to unhoused individuals in the area, offering them food and second-hand clothing. 

But the efforts brought run-ins with Atlanta Police. 

https://twitter.com/BlkHmmrTimes/status/1471200062114041860

Since then, the group has been using Instagram to call out police officers in Atlanta. They’ve shared pictures of a cop who they say unjustly arrested a Black Hammer member and led an online campaign to dox the officer involved, asking the public for information on him.  

black hammer cop
Black Hammer/Instagram

Black Hammer also began an aggressive campaign of street fundraising, which members claim was to support individuals experiencing houselessness, though ex-members allege the funds went back to Black Hammer. 

Black Hammer began targeting college campuses around Atlanta. It did not go unnoticed. Toward the end of 2021, members of the university communities began posting warnings about the group on subreddits for the local colleges

Students complained that Black Hammer fundraisers followed them and continued to push for donations even after students declined. Some students described insults from the fundraisers when they said no. Others described changing their routines to avoid the group.

black hammer reddit

Some people who donated to the group expressed regret after learning more about them.

The group’s public Venmo page shows over 100 donations from December 2021 to February 2022 with transfers listed as being for “donation,” “coat,” and “sleeping bags.” Under one transfer, a user asked for the money back.

Dr. Alex Cummings, a professor at Georgia State University, said she was followed and filmed by the group. According to Cummings, the group was asking for donations outside the building she taught in nearly every day. Cummings described to the Daily Dot how the fundraisers would follow her, get in her space, and act “aggressive and hostile.” 

Cummings spoke out but was rattled by the event. The whole situation left her feeling paranoid and unsure if retribution would follow. According to Dr. Cummings, other members of her department also felt harassed by the group.

But that isn’t Black Hammer’s only trouble with local communities. 

In July 2020, Black Hammer announced a new project: Hammer City, a free utopian commune run by the group on land outside Telluride, Colorado. Black Hammer extensively fundraised for the project. 

Before the land deal went through, Black Hammer began occupying the plot. The situation reached a climax in May 2021 when the group allegedly blocked public roads to the community with their vehicles. When one neighbor went to confront the group on May 16, three armed men approached him and one drew a handgun. 

The neighbor responded in kind by raising an unloaded shotgun at the group. In a police report obtained by the Daily Dot, Kodzo is listed as the only suspect. It appears charges were never filed. 

While Black Hammer had put down $10,000 to purchase the land through a different business, the deal fell through. 

Back in Atlanta after the deal fell through, Kodzo’s online persona shifted. 

In a video, Kodzo unleashed a screed against “antifa” and “Black Lives Matter” while jumping around in Joker makeup. An inclination toward far-right politics appeared to be manifesting as well. In a live stream with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, Kodzo claimed Black Hammer and the Proud Boys were forming a coalition. Even before the public coalition, Kodzo threatened members with violence from the Proud Boys

Although the groups announced their alignment, there is no evidence of actual coordination and cooperation between the Proud Boys and Black Hammer. But Black Hammer has pivoted in its posting to outwardly right-wing politics, endorsement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and cheering its military victories, while supporting the Supreme Court banning Roe v. Wade.

But regardless of its online persona, it’s a group that exists now only at the whims of Kodzo and what ex-members call their “cult of personality.”

As Kodzo sits in a jail cell, though, there’s no telling where the group might go.


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*First Published: Jul 29, 2022, 9:11 am CDT