Afeni Shakur, Activist and Mother of Tupac, Dies
Afeni Shakur, mother of rap legend Tupac Shakur, died Monday night at the age of 69, authorities said.
The Marin County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department confirmed the death early Tuesday. Deputies had responded to a report of a possible cardiac arrest around 9:34 p.m. Monday evening at her home in Sausalto, Calif. She was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 10:28 p.m.
Shakur was the overseer of her son’s legacy after he died in Las Vegas several days after being shot in September 1996. She headed the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, which closed in 2014.
A biopic on Tupac Shakur’s life is currently in production with “The Walking Dead” star Danai Gurirato set to play Afeni Shakur.
Born Alice Faye Williams in Lumberton, N.C., in 1946, she moved with her mother and sister to New York, where she attended Bronx High School of Science. In the mid-1960s, she joined the Black Panther Party after meeting one of the group’s recruiters and wrote for its newsletter the Panther Post. She changed her name to Afeni Shakur after beginning a relationship with fellow Panther Lumumba Abdul Shakur.
In 1969, she was arrested with 20 other Panthers on charges of conspiracy to bomb police stations and other New York public places. She was released on bail in 1970, but went to trial the next year in what would be known as the Panther 21 trial in which she defended herself — eventually winning her freedom.
She gave birth to a boy she named Lesane Parish Crooks in 1971, but later changed it to Tupac Amaru Shakur, after the after the Inca revolutionary.
Shakur did not return to the Black Panther movement, but instead took work as a paralegal in the Bronx and in 1975 married New Afrika activist Mutulu Shakur, who acted as a father figure for Tupac even after the marriage ended in 1982. She moved with her son and daughter Sekyiwa to Baltimore in 1984.
As depicted in Tupac’s song “Dear Mama,” Shakur fell on hard times while raising her children. She became addicted to crack cocaine and struggled to support them on public assistance. In an effort to shake away from the drug use that had plagued her for years, she moved the family to Marin County, Calif. But her tense relationship with her son caused him to leave by the time he was 18 and the two had no contact.
As Shakur’s career in hip hop emerged, his mother eventually beat her drug habit. But trouble was ahead for the young rapper.
At first convicted of sexual abuse charges and serving a year in prison for them, then encountering a feud between several factions in the record industry, Tupac Shakur’s life became more troubled. In 1994, he was shot while in a New York recording studio. He blamed the feud for his wounds, which fanned the flames of an industry beef.
In 1996, while leaving a boxing match in Las Vegas, Shakur was shot from a passing car, this time fatally.
The next year, Afeni Shakur founded Amaru Entertainment, which handled the posthumous releases of her son’s material including “The Don Killuminati,” other albums, several books and the biopic in production.
She later told National Public Radio in an interview that she believed she should use her son’s legacy to promote positivity and change.
“It has helped me a lot in these 10 years to stay focused and trying to grasp for a higher ground because of the love that people have shown to him and me,” she said. “It gives me a sense of responsibility to those people.”