This morning, the world was rocked with yet another high-profile death in 2016. We learned that Afeni Shakur, passed away last night due to cardiac arrest, at the age of 69. This generation will remember Shakur most for being mother of hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur and being executor of his estate. She has spent her latter years meticulously curating her son’s legacy. In 1997, she opened the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts in Stone Mountain. She has also been behind Tupac’s upcoming biopic All Eyez On Me. However, Ms. Shakur’s legacy extends beyond her son. Her personal history as a Black nationalist and activist is phenomenal in itself.
Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williamson January 10, 1947) found herself in New York City in 19578. Her mother, Rosa Belle, moved there with Afeni and her other daughter, Gloria Jean, to escape an abusive marriage. At the age of 15, as a troubled student at the Bronx High School of Science, Shakur began using cocaine, an addiction she’d fight her entire life.
In 1964, after meeting an associate of, and youth recruiter, for Malcolm X named Brother Shaheed, Shakur joined the Black Panther Party. Shakur told biographer Jasmine Guy that the Panthers, “took my rage and channeled it. They educated my mind and gave me direction.” She started writing articles for the Panthers’ newsletter, the Panther Post and was instrumental in devising and implementing a misdirection campaign that deceived the FBI into thinking the Panthers were dissolving. In 1968, she moved in with fellow Panther and changed her name to Afeni Shakur.
Shakur’s life would change forever on April 2, 1969. She was one of the Panther 21, 21 members of the Black Panthers
arrested on several counts of conspiracy to bomb police stations, department stores and other public spaces in NYC. After being released on bail in the fall of 1970, she was impregnated by William Garland, a New Jersey truck driver. Not too long after, her bail was revoked and she was thrown back in jail to await trial. She and others faced over 300 years in the penitentiary if convicted. The Panther 21 trial commenced in 1971. Against the will of her co-defendants, Shakur chose to act as her own attorney. For five months, Shakur challenged the prosecution like a seasoned lawyer. Her legal prowess scored her an acquittal. As a free woman,she gave birth to a son on June 16, 1971. She initially named him Lesane Parish Crooks, but later changed his name to Tupac Amaru Shakur (derived from an Inca term meaning “shining serpent”). The rest is history.
So, as you can see, Afeni Shakur’s place in history was solidified even before Tupac was born. She was a true warrior and champion. She will be missed. REST IN POWER!