Was it racist? Anti-hip-hop? Was there really a noose? The Center’s outreach director details the controversial crime and the future of the Foundation in this exclusive interview.
Carlos Coleman is the Outreach Director of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, in Stone Mountain, Georgia, outside of Atlanta. The TASCA is the performing arts institute that Tupac’s mother Afeni Shakur built to continue her son’s legacy of passionate artistry and activism. On October 20, 2007, the Center was vandalized, with the bronze statue of Tupac Shakur in the Center’s Peace Garden desecrated with a noosed rope around the statue’s neck. While rumors are circulating about the true details of the crime, only those who were there know the truth. In a XXLmag.com exclusive, Coleman speaks about the hate crimes and how the Center will be turning things around for their future.
Tell us what you saw that morning when you came to work.
We were hosting an event that day. When I went to open the Center, that’s when I discovered there were some postings on the sign outside the fence. I saw it personally. There were a lot of different postings all over the place – sheets of paper that said “2Pac: king of fools”. One posting had 2Pac’s body on it with the words “king of bling”. We took them down. It was all targeted at hip-hop artists. They had pictures of Ludacris—the Chicken and Beer album cover—replaced with Martin Luther King’s face. They did the same with 50 Cent—Martin Luther King’s face but 50’s body. They did it with Master P’s image too.
What happened to the Peace Garden at the Center?
We went out to the Peace Garden and we saw these big, bold postings all over the [2Pac] statue. The closer we got to the statue, we saw the underwear on the head of the statue—Tommy Hilfiiger underwear—and the mouth was covered with postings. There was a red rope around the neck of the statue and it was twisted so tight that if it was a human being he would’ve be strangled. A cross attached to the red rope had a message on it that said “caput, king of fools”. The writing was in red letters as if it was blood.
Some later reports said that it wasn’t actually a noose. What’s up with that?
It looked like a noose to me. I want people to know that it was a rope and it was twisted around the neck as if you were going to be strangled. They tried to say it wasn’t a noose but what else what is it? It was a rope and it was around his neck? Again, if it was a human being he would have been strangled to death.
Why would they try to deny it being a noose?
I think they did it to keep the publicity down. Or maybe to catch the guy. Or maybe they probably just didn’t give a fuck.
Was there other damage there?
Around the base of the statue we have these 2Pac poems on slates and they put [vandalized] postings on each one of the poems. Whoever it was, they really put some time in and thought this through. They knew how to finish the job and they knew what time we’d be away from the Center.
Reports said they caught someone, but the detectives haven’t actually lined up a suspect yet.
After the police report was filed, that following Monday, an incident of vandalism happened again around two a.m.—actually we don’t know what time it was but we captured a person on the premises [at] two in the morning. He was caught trespassing. Whoever the people were, they actually hit the base of the statue to try to bring the statue completely down. Both sides of the statue were completely destroyed. But ‘Pac was still standing. It takes a lot to take that statue down.
So, the guy you caught—do you believe he was the one, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
I believe he was there at the wrong place at the wrong time. Our security heard noise at that time coming out of the Peace Garden. [The security guard] heard a branch snap and pointed his flashlight in the direction where he heard a noise. He told the guy to come out. The guy who was hiding said he loved ’Pac and he came to talk to ’Pac. He was drunk. This was a black guy, a 37-year-old man.
Do you believe the intruder? Or do you think he had something to do with it?
Who knows? I feel like he had no business being on that property that early in the morning. He was charged with trespassing. We had no proof he was involved in the vandalism so they could not charge him with that. I didn’t talk to him personally.
What was the mood of the staff when they saw what happened?
The mood of the staff was very miserable. We were in disbelief. We couldn’t believe someone would come through and vandalize the statue like that. We were sad for a minute. We put so much work into the Center. Afeni Shakur put so much work into it, it was like, “Huh?” So, it took us back for a minute—a minute of disbelief.
Was the vandalism racist?
It wasn’t racist, it was more just hate. Hatred of black men comin’ up. [The vandals] were talking about bombing Atlanta because of Ludacris. They said Master P is the reason why we have bad karma in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. Because of Def Jam Records is why we had 9/11. It was just a sick person.
So how cooperative have the cops been?
So far, the police have been very cooperative. They have been taking it more serious than what I thought. At first it took a minute to get the police to come out, but once they realized how serious it was, they came out full strength with the Department of Homeland Security. They are working very diligently on it.
Ironically, it was in Atlanta where ’Pac beat the charge after allegedly shooting off-duty cops. You’d think they wouldn’t want to help now.
That’s something we were concerned about but thank God we’ve been getting a really great response from the police.
So tell us about this event you’re planning to address all the madness.
On November 10, we’re having our second film screening this year. The first one we had brought a really great response. We had Alpha Tyler [the Atlanta-based casting director for Tyler Perry’s House of Payne TV show] come out to the first screening. She was able to see Pac’s Kids, our kids program where we train them in singing, dancing and acting. One of our Pac’s Kids students, Kyre Batiste-Loftin, is now one of the new characters on House of Payne. We had Roderick Thomas, who played Paul in Stomp the Yard, and he was also in The Gospel. At our second film screening event we’re gonna have them come out again. Jay Braxton, an entertainment attorney in Atlanta, is coming out.
They will talk to the youth about film careers and breaking ground. We’re gonna show trailers of all Pac’s movies, but the first thing we’re doing that day is a re-dedication of the Peace Garden. It will be a public re-opening and a salute to all the loved ones who passed. A live community mural will be produced, initiated by Kyle Holbrook, who’s coming down from Pittsburgh as part of the dedication. This is his donation to the project.
We’re gonna have libations. We’re showing two movies: Love and Basketball and Remember the Titans and also we’re having a panel on sports and education where people will come out and talk about sports-driven foundations and how they’re helping the community. Afeni Shakur will be there. We’re just letting everybody know that we’re still fighting and the vandalism is not stopping us.
Why is the Peace Garden so important to the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation For The Arts?
The Peace Garden is a six-acre piece of property dedicated to peace. It’s for artists to come out and paint, write, do yoga, anything. The pavilions and the Peace Garden itself is just a place for tranquility. This is something that 2Pac would have wanted. Afeni Shakur is just continuing the legacy. He wanted a school of performing arts in every city, like the one he went to in Baltimore.
How did Afeni Shakur take it when they saw what they did to her son’s statue?
I think the worse was already done 11 years ago. There ain’t nothing else that can happen that’s more devastating than that. [Afeni Shakur] just took it like, “Okay, let’s get ourselves together and move forward.” She’s a strong cookie. That’s just who she is. That’s her nature. She’s in good spirits and is looking forward to moving forward.
How did Pac’s Kids take it?
The kids are troopers. They re the ones that have been keeping the adults strong. I was talking to one of the kids the other day and he was talking about problems with his school with the gangs, so that vandalism stuff was nothing to him. We have one student who came to us last year who was having health complications. She thought she was diabetic. The doctor said she was fine. She insisted they tested her and then found out she had Diabetes. Those are the kinds of kids we have. They speak up and stand up for themselves. So this just makes them fight a lil bit more and puts a lil more fire behind their fight.
There’s not a sad moment with us right now. It’s a moment of triumph. It’s a moment of moving forward. I think each one of us have been through so much that a little vandalism ain’t nothing. You take some one’s life, that’s a different story.
For more information about the TASF Film Festival visit www.tasf.org or www.2paclegacy.com