Afeni Shakur Dies: Today in Hip-Hop
On this day, May 2, in hip-hop history...
Born Alice Faye William in Lumberton, N.C. on Jan. 10, 1947, Shakur lived a life that was every bit as movie worthy as that of her iconic son. In the 1960s she jumped into the perilous life of an activist when she joined the Harlem chapter of the Black Panthers. Soon enough, she'd be engaged in a fight for her life.
On April 2, 1969. Afeni and 20 other members of the Panthers were arrested and charged with 156 counts of conspiracy after being accused of planning to blow up New York City police stations and parts of NYC's subway system. Going to trial in 1971, Afeni, who was pregnant with her son Tupac at the time, waived legal counsel and acted as her own lawyer in a trial where she faced 156 criminal charges and 300 years in prison. Miraculously, she was successful in her attempts to defend herself and she was acquitted of all 156 charges.
Just a bit over a month later, on June 16, 1971, Afeni gave birth to Tupac, and her life was ultimately never the same. In the years following the birth of Tupac, the Shakurs lived in poverty as they moved from Harlem to Baltimore, Md. to Marin City in the years spanning from 1971-1988.
A fierce advocate for education, Afeni famously made a young Tupac read The New York Times whenever he misbehaved. It was this sort of "punishment" combined with the outspoken nature of Afeni and the Panthers that helped shape Tupac into the fiercely intelligent, magnetic speaker he ultimately became.
At some point during her Tupac's childhood, Afeni became addicted to crack cocaine and disagreements between she and 'Pac led the young rapper—then known as MC New York—to move out. Tupac himself referenced Afeni's drug addiction in his iconic 1995 cut, "Dear Mama," a song that quickly topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart soon after its release.
Eventually, Afeni kicked her drug addiction and she and Tupac made amends, becoming the loving mother-son duo they'd been in years past. For years before Tupac's untimely death at the age of 25, Afeni acted as one of 'Pacs most trusted confidants.
In the years following his tragic murder, she founded Amaru Entertainment and safe guarded the legacy of her son, releasing posthumous albums like R U Still Down? (Remember Me) (1997), Until the End of Time (2001), Better Dayz (2002), Loyal to the Game (2004) and Pac's Life (2006) in the years after 'Pac's death.
In addition to fortifying the legacy of Tupac, Afeni also took on the role of a lecturer, imparting her well-honed wisdom at schools like the University of Central Arkansas, University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt University and more.
On Mon., May 2, 2016, deputies in California visited Afeni's Sausalito, Calif. home where they found the 69-year-old had suffered from a cardiac arrest. They then transported her to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead at 10:30 p.m. Weeks later, government officials from Afeni's native Lumberton proclaimed May 28, 2016 as Afeni Shakur Day.
In the hours and days that followed her death, folks from across the hip-hop community offered their support for the late activist, whose extraordinary life birthed one of the most iconic figures in entertainment history. While some might remember Afeni for being the starting point for the epic mythos of Tupac Shakur, all it takes is a cursory look at Afeni's background to know that her own life was the stuff of legends.
R.I.P. to Afeni Shakur, an activist and loving mother who is missed by many.
See 10 Critically-Acclaimed Books Rappers Live By