Dear Mama: The Life and Death of Afeni Shakur

Afeni Shakur

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Afeni Shakur

Shaylah Brown, student journalist

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Afeni Shakur Davis, mother of rap legend, Tupac Shakur, passed at the age of 69, on May 2.
The former Black Panther Party member reportedly suffered from a heart attack in her Sausalito houseboat. While the reported cause of death has yet to be confirmed, Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Doug Pittman reports “there is nothing to indicate to us that there was any foul play.”

Born Alice Faye Williams, Shakur was raised on a farm in Lumberton, North Carolina, where a private memorial service will be held on May 28. The activist reported the struggle with drug addiction began when she was a teenager, a few years after her mother mover her and her sister to New York City.

After meeting a Black Panther Party youth recruiter in the Bronx in 1964, Shakur joined the movement, writing articles for the Panther Post, the party’s newsletter. The party’s National Alumni Association released a statement on Shakur and her effect on her community. Four years after becoming a Panther, she moved in with fellow Panther member, Lumumba Abdul Shakur and changed her name to Afeni Shakur.

In her biography, Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary, written by Jasmine Guy, an actress and friend to Tupac Shakur, she admitted that the Black Panther Party “took my rage and channeled it. They educated my mind and gave me direction.”

On April 2, 1969, 21 members, including Shakur, of the Black Panther Party were indicted on charges of conspiracy to bombing public New York City landmarks. The case became known as Panther 21. During the 1971 trial, Shakur successfully acted as her own defense attorney, leading to her release from jail in May of 1971, five months after the trial began. In the following month, Shakur gave birth to a son named Lesane Parish Crooks, who later became globally known as Tupac Amaru Shakur. After the Panther 21 case, Shakur never returned to the Black Panther movement.

By 1982, Shakur was working as a paralegal for Richard Fischbein, gave birth to Tupac’s half-sister, Sekyiwa, and married and divorced New Afrika independence movement activist, Mutulu Shakur. She struggled with financial instability and drug addiction throughout the early 80s, while moving to Baltimore Maryland in 1984 and to Marin County, California in 1988.

While her son’s music career began to take off, Afeni Shakur returned to New York City in early 1991, attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, in which she overcame her addiction. Shakur’s drug addiction and deep affection for her children was made prominent in Tupac’s 1995 hit “Dear Mama,” in which he praises her for her sacrifices and accomplishments.

After his tragic death in September of 1996, Afeni Shakur and her former employer Fischbein became co-executors of her son’s estate, which was estimated to be worth between $8 million to $10 million and included at least 150 unreleased material.

A year following her son’s death, Shakur founded Amaru Entertainment to handle the release of Tupac’s unreleased material. The Don Killuminati was released in 1997 with eight additional albums, a film biography, and books about the rapper’s life following behind it. With an agreement between herself and EverGreen Copyrights, Shakur released remixes of her son’s biggest hits and a Broadway show from a script written by rap legend named “Live 2 Tell.”
Shakur’s active role in her community did not disappear after her leaving the Black Panther Party. Using the proceeds from the release of her son’s work, Shakur founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation for the Arts in Stone Mountain, Georgia, which sponsored programs to help youth succeed in art and music. The foundation included a day camp for children, provided scholarships and grants, and hosted charitable events. Unfortunately, the foundation closed in late 2014.

“She inspired me to try and do better for myself and my community as well.” Senior, Vania Walker, reflected. “Inspired me to go out and do more, to add on to what she did for the community. It was sad to hear about her death, but then I realized, she’s back with her baby boy. She’s straight.”

Her passion for helping others and taking care of her loved ones will live on through her work in her community, the memories shared with family members and close friends, and the heartfelt work of her late son, Tupac Shakur.

Can U C the Pride in the Panther by Tupac Shakur

Can u c the pride in the pantha
as he glows in splendor and grace
Toppling OBSTACLES placed in the way
of the progression of his race

Can u c the pride in the Pantha
as she nurtures her young all alone
The seed must grow regardless
of the fact that it’s planted in stone

Can’t u c the pride in the panthas
as they unify as one
The flower blooms with brilliance
and outshines the rays of the sun

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Dear Mama: The Life and Death of Afeni Shakur