Like Afeni and Tupac, my family is also made up of activists.

I can relate to her commitment to the struggle that so many of us face. Afeni is more than just the mother of the late and great Tupac Shakur. She is one of the most inspiring black women of her time. There will never be another Afeni Shakur.

Growing up in Harlem, I heard many stories about the Black Panther party and the black power movement of the ’60s and ’70s. I was fascinated with this era in African-American history. As a teenager, I read every book l could find on the subject and spoke to anyone who was involved in the movement.

Although I was big Tupac fan, I knew very little about his mother. I knew she was a former Panther and that she had served some time in jail, but that was the extent of my knowledge of her. It was after reading Assata Shakur’s autobiography that I became curious about the role of the women in the organization. This inspired me to learn about other sisters in the movement, including Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver and Elaine Brown.

I researched information about the Panther 21 members and their trial. I found out Afeni played an important role as communications secretary for the Harlem chapter. She was one of the most respected members. While pregnant with Tupac, she was harassed by police and faced the possibility of life in prison, but she stood her ground. Her resilience in the courtroom is a testament to her strength. Her strength inspired Tupac in his music career. He often spoke fondly of his mother during interviews. His hit single, “Dear Mama,” was dedicated to his mother. I remember first watching the video in the ’90s and thinking that I’d never heard such a moving musical tribute before. It was a powerful song at the time and remains a classic in hip hop.

The trials and tribulations of Afeni as a single mother who battled addiction is not uncommon in our communities. She was able to overcome her circumstances and raise talented children. She also set an example for other young women of color. There are so many women of color going through similar struggles today. They should look up to Afeni as their inspiration.

Tupac was a gift to the world and a prolific artist in the hip-hop community.

He inspired me and many other activists all over the world. When Tupac spoke, people listened — whether it was positive or negative. His mother’s work in the Black Panther party and the guidance he received from his step-father, Mutulu Shakur, played a major role in the development of his socially conscious mindset.

After Tupac’s murder, many thought Afeni would go to Cuba to be with Assata. The pain of losing a child would cause others to simply give up the fight, but not this strong woman. She remained in the United States to preserve the legacy of her son.

Afeni also continued to work with youth in the community. She launched the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which raises funds to provide art programs for youth. This program encourages young people to express themselves through art.

In the nearly 20 years since Tupac’s unsolved murder, I have followed Afeni’s monumental work.

I also had the opportunity to meet many notable former Panthers. I held out hope that one day I would have the opportunity to speak with her as well, but that day will never come. The details surrounding her sudden death have not been revealed yet. Many of us still have questions about the cause of her death and what will happen to her estate. Even though Afeni is reunited with her son in the afterlife, her work in the community must live on through us. We must never forget her contribution to our community, nor the legacy she left behind.

Afeni Shakur wasn’t just Tupac’s mother or a member of the Black Panther party. Above everything else, she was a strong black woman.

Her contributions to black empowerment are second to none. Intertwined in her legacy is the legacy of her son, Tupac Shakur, one of the most successful hip-hop artists of all time. Combine Afeni’s activism with Tupac’s social consciousness and you have an insurmountable legacy for the ages and the impetus to inspire future generations of activist, rappers, and black and brown families alike.

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