Cult Tied to 6 People Who Vanished From Berkeley Spread on TikTok

Rashad Jamal’s University of Cosmic Intelligence combines conspiracy theories and sun worship

Jan 11, 2024 at 7:05 am
Rashad Jamal, shown in a screen grab from TikTok.
Rashad Jamal, shown in a screen grab from TikTok. Screen grab from divinemind9 on TikTok

Six people who disappeared in August after sharing a house in Berkeley, Missouri, had ties to an alleged cult run by a social media influencer currently in prison for child molestation.

The missing six include four women, two from St. Louis: Mikayla Thompson, 25, and Ma’Kayla Wickerson, 36, as well as Wickerson's 3-year-old daughter, Malaiyah, and another child. 

Prior to their disappearance, those three St. Louisans were living in the Berkeley house with three others: 30-year-old Naaman Williams of Washington, D.C.; Gerrielle German, 27, of Mississippi, and German's 2-year-old daughter, Ashton Williams. 

The investigation into the missing women has made national news this week. Berkeley Police were concerned about the strange goings-on at the house not far from St. Louis Lambert International Airport where the six people lived. The women could be seen in the backyard worshiping the sun, sometimes naked. 

Major Steve Runge with Berkeley PD told the Post-Dispatch that the women's disappearances were "extremely troubling" to their families. 

"The level of disconnect these cult members have demonstrated with friends and family members is unfathomable," he said.

The six women lived in the single-story vinyl-sided house in Berkeley before relocating to a hotel in Florissant. After the women left the hotel, authorities searched the Berkeley house, finding no signs of foul play but ample evidence, including food still in the microwave, that indicated it had been left in a hurry. It was then that a search of the women's social media activity revealed them to all be avid followers of Rashad Jamal.

Jamal has been described in various media outlets as a cult leader and a social media prophet. On his own Twitter account he describes himself as an "Author/Poet /Revolutionary/Luminous Being" based out of Chicago. He operates a website, the University Of Cosmic Intelligence, where for $333.33 a year subscribers can access lectures and other materials. 

On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #rashadjamal have more than 278 million views and feature Jamal talking about everything from dreams to menstrual cycles to dead people not actually staying in the ground. Often these are soundtracked with hooks from classic hip-hop songs like Luniz 's "I Got 5 On It."

Vice covered Jamal in a series of articles in 2022 with a focus on his followers running afoul of the law, including two being accused of murder in Alabama.

Vice describes the ideology Jamal espouses as "a mixture of esoteric spirituality, Black empowerment, polygamy and conspiracy theories," with the latter including that some professional basketball players are robots and that the government controls the weather via rainbows, which he calls “stargates.” Jamal's teachings also to some degree dovetail with the sovereign citizen movement, which does not recognize the authority of the federal government and has historically had a presence in St. Louis

Jamal himself was sentenced in Georgia to 22 years in prison for child molestation and child cruelty. The mother of the child he molested told Vice that Jamal's followers consistently harassed her as the case against him worked its way through the courts. 

Jamal posted to Twitter that his trial started August 14. The six people who disappeared from St. Louis were last seen on August 13. 

Despite being in prison, Jamal is still active across social media. An Instagram story posted in the past day to his 90,000 followers promotes a new lecture available through his website. 

He's also continued to opine on global events, speaking about the Israel-Hamas war, which started almost a month after he was sentenced to prison, in a series of TikTok videos featuring his jail house audio. He appears to be generally pro-Hamas, saying that are misunderstood like the character Magento from the X-men. "Iran is backed by extraterrestrial races fighting against Israel," he adds. 

A week ago he posted another lecture to his University of Cosmic Intelligence YouTube channel that sounded like it was being recorded over a prison phone. In that audio he blames his current woes on "the alleged mother of my child."

"She came together with the powers that be to set me up," he says. "The powers that be didn't like me because I'm on YouTube and I'm on social media all day, raising the frequency of the planet."

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