Marin County deputies responded to Afeni Shakur’s home in Sausalito, Calif., on May 2nd, 2016 after she suffered a possible cardiac arrest. She was taken to a local hospital and died just before 10:30 p.m. She was 69 years old.
In her life, she was a mother, a human rights activist, a revolutionary and a philanthropist. The world knows her best for being the mother of a generation through giving birth to Tupac Shakur. She is a poetical Virgin Mary of a resistance, having defeated the white supremacist social structure at its own game.
Shakur was able to evolve, adapt and change in order to flourish in multiple environments. However, the road to who she became begins nearly seven decades ago on January 10, 1947. She would grow up in a racially polarized atmosphere that saw many Black activists and their White allies hunted, shot, spied upon, and jailed without trial.
The Early Years
Born Alice Faye Williams, she would join the Black Panther Party in 1968 after being recruited in the Bronx. In 1968, she moved in with fellow Panther Lumumba Abdul Shakur and changed her name to Afeni Shakur.
“(They) took my rage and channeled it. They educated my mind and gave me direction,” Shakur would later recount during an interview with Jasmine Guy.
Additionally, the FBI Cointelpro was in full swing and was doing a grim and efficient job at turning the Black Panther Party against itself.
In the wake of active and aggressive federal efforts led by J. Edgar Hoover, local law enforcement was stepping up its efforts to persecute and dismantle the party as well. These tactics were often illegal. The court system was used as a weapon of racism. Young Shakur found herself in its ravenous maw.
On April 2, 1969, she was rounded up along with 20 members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and charged with a conspiracy to bomb police stations in New York City. While Afeni was incarcerated, she was granted bail, but then had her bail revoked.
It was her wit and guile against the unlimited resources of the machine. And this is where the miracle occurred. You see, for that moment, for that brief and fleeting moment, she was a Messiah.
Shakur defended herself, to the chagrin of her co-defendants. According to The Briar Patch, written by former lawyer Murray Kempton, Shakur defeated the prosecution almost singlehandedly and gave birth to Tupac Shakur on June 16, 1971, as a free woman.
It was a divine victory for Black revolutionaries. An immaculate conception, free of white supremacist efforts. It is a blessed occurrence, indeed. But soon afterward the ghetto realities of contemporary life became an everyday constant.
Abusive relationships, drug abuse, poverty, and pain. But if not for the love of a son that died too soon, would we have remembered her miracle?
Indeed, the devil always seems to take his pound of flesh as well.
Her son was born Lesane Parish Crooks, but in 1972, he was renamed after the last Incan emperor Tupac Amaru II, who was executed after leading an 18th-century Peruvian indigenous uprising against Spanish rule.
He was born into the revolutionary struggle. His godfather was high-ranking Black Panther Geronimo Pratt. His stepfather Mutulu Shakur, a member of the Black Liberation Army who was on the run from the FBI for four years and was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list starting in 1982, is responsible for freeing his sister Assata Shakur from a penitentiary in New Jersey.
Mutulu Shakur was captured in 1986 during a bank robbery in which two police officers and a security guard were killed. Tupac Shakur would be a blazing superstar with music that exuded soul and angst worthy of his heritage and reminiscent of an ongoing struggle.
On September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur was shot in Las Vegas, Nevada. Born of a miracle, Tupac would die on September 13, 1996, of multiple gunshot wounds. Sacrificed, imperfect and redeemed, Pac’s legacy has spread the Black experience throughout the world.
Shakur’s homage to his mother is titled Dear Momma and is an all-time music hit. Afeni would become the executor of her son’s estate.
Like a ghetto menagerie, as the son ascended, the mother would inherit the earth, which is often the case for families with sons who died of gun violence, a part remained.
For many it is children, for Afeni it was her son’s works and legacy.
Exactly one year following Tupac’s death, with the money made from Tupac’s posthumous albums, Afeni founded the Georgia-based Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which provides art programs for young people, and Amaru Entertainment, a holding company for Pac’s unreleased work.