You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot kill a revolution ~ Afeni Shakur
September 13, 2019 is the 23rd anniversary of the death of Tupac Amaru Shakur (1971-1996). In honor of his legacy and continued social influence we are highlighting the life of his mother Afeni Shakur, whose own activism strongly influenced the ideologies of her son. In 1964, seventeen year old Alice Faye Williams joined the Black Panther Party. It did not take long for the young woman to move up the ranks of the organization. By 1968 she reinvented herself and Afeni Shakur, communications secretary and section leader of Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party was born. The organization stated, “she was one of the highest ranking members on the East Coast and her leadership was the reason many young women joined.”
The Harlem Chapter experienced a turbulent upheaval in 1968 when Afeni and 20 other party members were arrested, jailed and charged with “conspiracy” in plotting bomb detonations throughout New York. Afeni represented herself throughout the infamous New York 21 trial, in which the charges lobbied against Afeni and her co-defendants carried a possible 300 year prison sentence. In May 1971, the defendants known as “The Panther 21” were acquitted. Afeni left the Harlem Chapter following the birth of her son Lesane Parish Crooks (A.K.A. Tupac) in June.
Ensuing years were difficult for Afeni and her two children, Tupac and Sekyiwa. The family experienced extreme hardships and poverty as a result of Afeni’s instability, drug addiction and personal struggles. The family moved from New York to Maryland, and then to California during this transitional period. In 1991 Afeni overcame her drug dependency. Tupac’s 1995 song, “Dear Mama” was inspired by and dedicated to Afeni. Speaking on his adolescent years, Tupac stated, “My mother was a woman, a black woman, a single mother raising two kids on her own. She was dark-skinned, had short hair, got no love from nobody except for a group called the Black Panthers. I don’t consider myself to be straight militant. I’m a thug, and my definition of thug comes from half of the street element and half of the Panther element, half of the independence movement. Saying we want self-determination. We want to do it by self-defense and by any means necessary. That came from my family and that’s what thug life is. It’s a mixture.”
In 1996, Tupac was shot and killed in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 25. His murder remains unsolved. In 2016, Afeni died from a heart attack at the age of 69.
These items and others like it are located in the Freedom Center, CSUF Archives located in the Pollak Library on the 3rd Floor South (PLS-352). FCSF_F1_D3_109.
This post was authored by Christi Terry, a student assistant in the CSUF Archives and a graduate student in the CSUF History Department.
Svetkey, Benjamin. “Tupac Shakur inteview.” Entertainment Weekly. 1994