The notable activist and poet, Afeni Shakur has passed away at the age of 69. The Marin County Sheriff’s office say they responded to a call last night of a possible cardiac arrest. Afeni was transported to a hospital but unfortunately passed away at 10:30pm.
Afeni was a part of the revolution of the Black Panther Party when racial tensions were peaked in America. She is remembered saying, “The Black Panthers took my rage and channeled it. They educated my mind and gave me direction.” It was this passion and education that later helped raise a very politically-outspoken son, Tupac Shakur.
Born Alice Faye Williams in 1947, Afeni grew up in the south during the time of Jim Crow Laws. The racism and discrimination she was exposed to at a young age greatly influenced her political activist future. By the time she was in her early twenties, she took on the name Afeni Shakur and was a member of the New York branch’s Black Panther Party.
On April 2, 1969 Afeni was arrested, along with 20 other Black Panthers, and charged with 156 counts of conspiracy. The group quickly became known as The New York Panther 21 and was facing 352 years in prison.
Afeni was the first of the group released on bail during the fall of 1970. As the first released, it was her responsibility to continue speaking out against the imprisonment of her fellow B.P members and to raise money for their aid.
Shortly after being released, Afeni’s bail was revoked due to two free members of the Panther 21 skipping town and she was sent back to prison. To make matters even more complicated, Afeni was pregnant. Her pregnancy in prison proved to be extremely difficult- she even spoke of having to get a court order so she could reserve the right to one egg and one glass of milk each morning to nurture her unborn child.
The Panther 21 Trial began in 1971 and despite countless objections from friends and codefendants, Afeni decided to represent herself in court. She was said to have been extremely impressive in the court room and about five months later, won her freedom.
A month after Afeni was acquitted, she gave birth to her son, Lesane Parish Crooks, later renamed Tupac Amaru Shakur after an 18th century Incan chief and revolutionary, Túpac Amaru and his mother’s last name, Shakur, Arabic for “Thankful to God.”
Afeni later struggled with drug addiction and domestic violence but came out the other side a survivor. She spoke openly about her past drug abuse and its effects on her ability to be a good mother but never made excuses for herself. In a conversation with Michael Eric Dyson, Afeni admitted, “I know what harm I brought to [Tupac], so really what I did was prepare him to be able to live through the harm.” Despite their tumultuous relationship, it was obvious that Afeni and Tupac shared a special and unbreakable bond.
Watch the videos below to hear a 17 year old Tupac speak about valuable lessons from his mother and his certified platinum single dedicated to her, Dear Mama