February 21st marks the 21st anniversary of “Dear Mama”, Tupac’s ode to his mother Afeni Shakur. Her life is one of significant evolution, but to see her consistent efforts to maintain her son’s memory is as powerful as the legacy he left behind. Here are the reasons we continue to appreciate Afeni Shakur.
1. Clearly, because she birth the legend that was Tupac Amaru Shakur.
2. But also because she was a Black Panther and wrote for the Panther’s newsletter, which helped counter COINTELPRO by feeding them ideas that the organization was becoming obscure. She was arrested on several counts of conspiracy in 1970.
3. In 1971, she defeated the prosecution’s case in the Panther 21 trial. According to The Briar Patch, Shakur was responsible for the victory and performed like a “seasoned lawyer”…and not to mention, she was in her final trimester with Tupac Shakur at the trial.
4. She made miracles every Thanksgiving.
5. She has been forthright about her drug use that started when she was 15 and going clean in 1991, when she started attending Narcotics Anonymous. Her journey inspired Tupac to write “Dear Mama” recalling everything she did for him and his sister in spite of her addiction.
6. She got this statue built that still stands in Stone Mountain, GA across from what was the Tupac Shakur Center for the Arts.
7. The names she chose for herself and Tupac are major keys. She was born Alice Faye Williams and changed her name after joining the black liberation movement; the surname ‘Shakur’ means thankful to God in Arabic, ‘Afeni’ means lover of people, and Tupac was named after the South American revolutionary Túpac Amaru, meaning shining serpent.
8. After Tupac was murdered, she started Amaru Entertainment and is the reason we’ve had all those posthumous albums from Tupac.
9. She is persistent in maintaining her son’s legacy, even being hands-on in the process of making Broadway’s Holler If You Hear Me.
10. She can make a dollar out of fifteen cents.
11. Even the way she talks about missing her son’s “being” needs to be appreciated. Always holding onto her son’s humanity in the midst of the media’s inaccurate portrayal of his complexities.
12. She once wrote a letter to Maya Angelou just to say “Thank you” for possibly saving Tupac’s life on the set of Poetic Justice. In this moment, proving that it still takes a village.
There is so much to be said about raising black men in America and to see this mother’s plight, from her activism to losing her son to violence, and still having the strength to fight for us to see him, not just as an incredible talent, but also as a human being is beyond words. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve read her biography penned by Jasmine Guy, Afeni Shakur: The Evolution of a Revolutionary.