Most of the world was introduced to Afeni Shakur by way of her superstar, super Gemini, super handsome son, Tupac Shakur aka 2pac. In the 20 years since his tragic passing, we've grown to understand that the revolutionary (and contradictory) artist was shaped largely by his mother. Afeni was an activist, poet, actress, political prisoner, and member of the Black Panther Party—and late in life she dedicated herself to keeping the name, legacy, and truth of her son's contribution to the world alive. She suffered a possible cardiac arrest last night. Here are five reasons why Afeni Shakur will always be appreciated.
1. . Afeni Shakur was a revolutionary.
Afeni Shakur (not to be confused with Assata Shakur, who was her sister-in-law), joined the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. Speaking to Davey D, she explained the following: "When I joined, I wasn't a student. I did not come off the college campuses like a lot of known Panthers did. I came from the streets of the South Bronx. I had been a member of the Disciples Deads, which would have been the women Disciples in the Bronx," she said. "What the Panther Party did for me, I used to always say it gave me home training. The Party taught me things that were principles to living, and those principles are the principles I think most Panthers have tried to pass on to their children and to anybody else that would listen to them..." she continued. "And those are the things I think the people recognize in Tupac."
2. . Afeni Shakur was a writer.
Not only was Afeni a poet and journalist, but her work inspired her son and even the FBI. An active member of the Black Panther Party, she began writing articles for their newsletter The Panther Post. The purpose of most of her writing by the late 1960s was to thwart federal investigators from knowing about what was truly going on within the party, which was said to have been enormously successful. She intentionally wrote pieces to make outsiders believe the BPP was thinning out and fading away. Her poems were also included in a few of the newsletters, such as the one below via Tumblr:
3. . Afeni Shakur was a badass.
In 1969, one year after moving in with Mutulu Shakur and officially changing her name from Alice Faye Williams, Afeni Shakur was arrested with 21 Panthers. They were all charged with several counts of conspiracy to bomb public places in New York City. After being released on bail in 1970, she became pregnant with Tupac and was sent back to jail during the pregnancy and throughout the trial. The trial began in 1971, and Afeni famously defended herself. The case lasted for five months, Afeni largely celebrated as the reason for the win, as detailed by former lawyer Murray Kempton in his book The Briar Patch. Afeni had been a free woman for a month by the time she welcomed her son Tupac Amaru Shakur into the world on June 16, 1971.
4. . Afeni Shakur was charitable.
After the untimely death of her son, Shakur made use of her son's publishing and unreleased material to create a multi-million dollar empire, which was the main source of revenue for her charity. The Tupac Amaru Foundation for the Arts was created, funded, and supported by contributions from Tupac's music estate. Similar to her Black Panther Party roots, the center acts as a day camp for children, has a safe place for meditation, provides scholarships and grants for students, and more.
5. . Afeni Shakur was Tupac's Mama.
What more needs to be said? Just watch and reminisce.
Appreciated, indeed. Rest in peace, Afeni.