Afeni Shakur Davis, the mother of one of hip-hop’s most iconic figures, has died at age 69, the Marin County, California, sheriff’s office stated Tuesday. Known best as the mother of Tupac Shakur, Shakur-Davis was also a Black Panther as a young adult and an activist and philanthropist in her later years.
Deputies responded to “a possible cardiac arrest” call at her Sausalito home around 9:34 p.m. Monday, the Sheriff’s Office of Marin County, said. Shakur Davis was taken to the hospital where she died at 10:28 p.m. Shakur Davis leaves behind her daughter Sekyiwa Shakur, and family, including sister-in-law Assata Olugbala Shakur,a member of the former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army.
When we think about Tupac Shakur and the legacy he left behind, we can’t help but to think of his mother, Afeni. Through his music and spoken word, Tupac has spoken about how influential his mother has been to himself and to black history. Shakur Davis, however, told the world how much her son has made an impact on her life, including pushing her towards a sober life. In an 2005 interview with Miami Herald, Shakur Davis spoke about how her usage of cocaine almost ruin her relationship with her son forever. She spoke about how during one of her hazes, someone told her that her son’s hip-hop career was taking off. “I was in the heyday of using,” she said. “Someone told me that Tupac was on the Arsenio Hall Show, and I thought they were lying.” But in 1991, she kicked the habit and rekindled her family bonds. She and Tupac became close, once again, until his untimely death in 1996. So in the memory both of Afeni and her son Tupac, we composite a list of five times Afeni Shakur-Davis has influenced Her son Tupac and black history.
- Dear Mama
Tupac released “Dear Mama” as his lead single from his third studio album, Me Against the World. The song is a tribute to his mother–in which he details suffering from poverty during his childhood and his mother’s addiction to crack cocaine, but argues that his love for his mother is so much greater. Shakur-Davis was noticeably absent during Tupac’s childhood, reasons of being an activist, and being addicted to crack cocaine. Tupac lost contact with his mother when he was kicked out by his mother at age 17. After enrolling in and completing a 12-step program, she reconciled with her son, who was at this point a successful recording artist. With lines such as, “And even as a crack fiend, mama, you always was a black queen, mama.” Tupac declares his love for his mother despite for afflictions. In 2012, Rolling Stone placed “Dear Mama” at number 18 on its 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time list. After the passing of Tupac, Afeni mentioned the song in a People article: “Can I listen to it without crying? No. It gets worse every time. It gets harder, it really does. That song gets deeper and deeper.”
- Black Panthers Movement: The trial of the Panther 21
Afeni Shakur-Davis was born Alice Faye Williams in 1947 in North Carolina. Shakur-Davis became politically active in her 20s, with joining the Black Panthers. In 1969, Afeni Shakur was arrested along with 20 other members of the Black Panthers. The Trial of the Panther 21 captured the nation’s headlines, and at the time was, the longest and most expensive political trial in the state of New York. Over the course of two years, Afeni was incarcerated while awaiting her trial, released on bail numerous times, only to return to her jail, while pregnant with her unborn son. Afeni Shakur-Davis served as her own defense attorney after being charged of 156 charges of associated with conspiring to destroy New York City department stores, subway stations, and police stations. Shakur was acquitted of all charges just over a month before the birth of her son … Tupac Amaru Shakur.
- The Unity of Mothers: Afeni Shakur and Voletta Wallace:
Two years after the passing of Christopher “Notorious BIG” Wallace and three years after the passing of Tupac Amaru Shakur, the mothers of both slain rappers, Afeni and Voletta Wallace met for the first time at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. They were introduced to each other on stage by Actor/Recording Artist Will Smith, as they presented the MTV video Music Award for Best Rap Video–which was won by Rapper Jay-Z. Their meeting on TV was a momentum moment in providing closure to the East Coast/West Coast feud, which caused the lives of their sons. “In Keeping with both of our son’s memories and contributions to the arts, we stand united as mothers preserving their legacies.”, said Shakur.
- The Opening of The Tupac Amaur Shakur Center for the Arts:
In 1997, a year after the death of her son, Afeni Shakur opened the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts in Stone Mountain, Georgia, in response to preserving her son’s legacy. The performing arts center’s mission was to provide opportunities through the arts, and offers programs such as drama, dance, and creative writing classes for young people from the ages of 12-18. In June of 2005 The Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts Peace Garden and visitor center was opened–a tribute to Tupac Shakur and others who have died. Shakur-Davis also went to Africa in 2006 and cultivated a relationship between The Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts and The Nelson Mendela foundation.The center was closed down in 2014. The performing arts gene was strong in both Afeni and her son Tupac Shakur. As a young woman with hopes of becoming an actress, Shakur-Davis attended the Performing Arts High School in Manhattan, New York. Tupac contributed to his high school’s drama department by performing in several productions. During that time, Shakur wrote a powerful paper in english class called, “Conquering All Obstacles” where he said, “our raps not the sorry-story raps everyone is so tired of. They are about what happens in the real world. Our goal is [to] have people relate to our raps, making it easier to see what really is happening out there. Even more important, what we may do to better our world.”
- Tupac and J. Cole Partners Up to create Book Club:
The Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation and J Cole’s Dreamville Foundation joined forces and started a youth book club in Fayetteville,North Carolina. The first book read and discussed was, A Rose that Grew from Concrete. A collection of poetry written by Tupac between 1989 and 1991, published in 1999. Afeni also a poet, her poetry had inspired her son and others. One poem in particular, “To Our Black Brothers In Prison. Black Panther Party U.S.A.” from an issue of the Black Panther News from 1969.