Afeni Shakur is most famously known as the mother of Hip Hop Legend, Tupac Shakur. Less than a week before Mother’s Day, let’s recognize the strength and resilience of a mother. Still, like all mothers, Afeni Shakur lived first as a childless woman with her own story before motherhood. She was much more than the mother of Tupac. Be mindful and apologetic when remembering Ms. Shakur as simply the mother of the late artist. It is dismissive of her long life full of personal struggle, activism, and service.
The businesswoman, philanthropist, and former Black Panther Party member was the daughter of a homemaker and a trucker. In 1958 her mother, Rosa Belle, escaped the pain of domestic abuse by moving herself and her children from North Carolina up to New York. It was here that Shakur would encounter a future in activism through the Black Panther Party as well as meet the substance that threatened her future, cocaine. She would later say, “[The Black Panther Party] took my rage and channeled it. They educated my mind and gave me direction.”
Ten years later, Afeni Shakur legally abandoned her birth name, Alice Williams. In the next year, she and fellow members of the Party, now known as the infamous Panther 21, were arrested in alleged connection with the planning of several bombings in New York. The trial, the longest and most costly in New York history, would last two years. While Shakur was released on bail she became pregnant. Returning after her revoked bail, a pregnant Shakur defended herself in court with no prior legal training. She won.
A month later, she gave birth to Tupac Amaru Shakur.
The next several years were clouded by poverty and drug addiction. In attempt to leave these behind, she relocated her family to California. It was here that Tupac grew into the star remembered today. With involvement in theater, dance, and music groups, Tupac later became the provider of the family. During this time in 1991, his mother returned to New York to defeat her drug addiction. Here, she attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings and successfully overcame her battle with cocaine.
After her son’s death, she found the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. The charity provides art programs to students. She believed that the arts could be the positive way out for children. “Arts can save children, no matter what’s going on in their homes,” Shakur said.
While Afeni Shakur’s memory has been immortalized in songs like “Dear Mama,” she will be remembered and celebrated for her strength and fight for justice. She will be remembered as both woman and mother. Rest in peace Afeni Shakur.
“We want the waters troubled. We are trouble makers, it’s what we’re here for.”