Remembering Black Panther Afeni Shakur: 13 Things To Know About The Mother Of Tupac

Remembering Black Panther Afeni Shakur: 13 Things To Know About The Mother Of Tupac


Photo: Afeni Shakur in Atlanta, Ga., June 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

Afeni Shakur, the mother of hip-hop great Tupac “2Pac” Shakur, was born Alice Faye Williams in Lumberton, North Carolina, in 1947. A political activist, she was a former member of the Black Panther Party who once took on the New York City Police Department in the infamous Panther 21 criminal case.

At the age of 11 in 1958, Afeni Shakur and her sister moved to the South Bronx with their mother, a factory worker. She joined the Black Panther Party as a teenager and her life of activism began, but after leaving the organization, her life was full of highs and lows. Afeni Shakur died on May 2, 2016.

Remembering Black Panther Afeni Shakur; here are 13 things to know about the mother of Tupac.

1. Star pupil-turned-Panther

Afeni Shakur did great in junior high, even receiving acclaim and a letter from New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner congratulating her on a journalism award she received. In 1962, she passed the qualifying examinations for two standout high schools in New York City — the Bronx High School of Science and High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. She chose the latter but was later forced to drop out after one term when she couldn’t afford the school supplies. The teen began drifting and became a member of a Bronx street gang called the Disciples.

She later briefly worked a postal job, becoming one of the first women mail carriers in New York, according to the New York Times.

Becoming a member of the Black Panther Party turned her life around.

2. Becoming an activist

Afeni Shakur was spurred into activism after hearing Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale speak. It led to her joining the Black Panther Party when they opened an office in Harlem in 1968. There she met Lumumba Shakur, a Sunni Muslim. They married in November 1968, and she changed her name to Afeni Shakur. She soon became a section leader of the Harlem chapter.

“They educated my mind and gave me direction,” Afeni Shakur said. “With that direction came hope, and I loved them for giving me that. Because I never had hope in my life. I never dreamed of a better place or hoped for a better world for my mama, and my sister, and me,” All That’s Interesting reported.

3. The Panther 21

In April 1969, Afeni Shakur and 20 other Black Panthers were arrested and charged with several counts of conspiracy to bomb police stations and other public places in New York, Billboard reported.

Among the charges brought against her and the other members of the Black Panther Party were attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to bomb buildings, NBC News reported. She was facing a 350-year jail term and she was pregnant at the time.

Afeni Shakur represented herself at trial. “I was young. I was arrogant. And I was brilliant in court … because I thought this was the last time I could speak. The last time before they locked me up forever … I was writing my own obituary,” she wrote in her 2004 autobiography, “Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary.”

Her statements and questioning of the government infiltrators during the trial are credited with helping to expose the FBI’s corruption and help save the Panther 21.

She and the others in the “Panther 21” were acquitted in May 1971 after an eight-month trial. But before she was acquitted, Afeni Shakur spent two years in the New York Women’s House of Detention.

“I knew my militant agenda would one day end here in the hall of justice, but there was no justice in how it went down,” Shakur wrote. “We were spied on, infiltrated, set up, and psychologically manipulated. I saw people I thought I knew changed before my very eyes.”

4. Leaving the Party

After she was acquitted, Afeni Shakur did not return to the Black Panther Party. During the trial, it was revealed that three of the 21 Panthers arrested were actually undercover police officers, according to an excerpt from Adam Curtis’ documentary, “Cant Get You Out of My Head (Part II),” which was posted on YouTube. While she was defending herself, she cross-examined one of the undercover agents. It was her cross examination that many said led to the group’s acquittal.

5. Birth of Tupac

On June 16, 1971, Afeni Shakur gave birth to her son, Lesane Parish Crooks. She later renamed him Tupac Amaru Shakur. Shakur’s marriage fell apart when it turned out that Lumumba Shakur was not Tupac’s biological father. His biological father is Billy Garland. Shakur worked with Garland in the Black Panther Party.

Afeni Shakur named Black Panther Party member Geronimo Pratt as Tupac’s godfather and Assata Shakur as his godmother.

6. Life after the Panthers

In 1975, Afeni Shakur married Mutulu Shakur and had a daughter, Sekyiwa Shakur. The couple divorced in 1982. Afeni Shakur worked as a paralegal for a decade, but then she got involved with drugs and struggled with a crack cocaine addiction in the early 1980s.

She was unable to hold onto a job and went on welfare to care for her children.

7. Crack cocaine addiction

“When I was on drugs my spirit was dead,” Afeni Shakur said in an interview.

In 1988, she moved her family to Marin County, California, but the next year Tupac left home because of her drug use and had no contact with his family for a couple of years.

Afeni Shakur moved back to New York City in early 1991 and began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Nine months into her recovery program, Tupac sent her $5,000 even though their relationship was strained, Dazed reported.

She ultimately overcame her addiction and she and Tupac reconciled.

8. Dear Mama

Tupac paid tribute to his mother in his 1995 song “Dear Mama,” which reflects on his childhood, Afeni Shakur’s struggles with addiction, and his love for her.

The song goes: “You always were committed, A poor single mother on welfare, tell me how you did it. There’s no way I can pay you back, but the plan is to show you that I understand: you are appreciated.”

The Library of Congress added “Dear Mama” to the National Recording Registry in 2009.

9. The death of Tupac

Tupac died on Sept. 13, 1996, of gunshot wounds in a Sept. 7, 1996, Las Vegas drive-by shooting. He was 25.

Tupac was in Vegas for the much-anticipated Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon boxing match. He and others in his entourage were seen on hotel surveillance video in the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel involved in a violent scuffle with a man later identified as a member of the Los Angeles-based Crips street gang.

Hours later, Tupac was in a car driven by Death Row Records head Marion “Suge” Knight when a white Cadillac pulled up alongside them at a stoplight and someone inside opened fire. At least 12 shots were fired, four of which struck Tupac and one of which grazed the head of Suge Knight. Emergency surgery saved Tupac’s life that night, but days later, he died of his wounds.

After Tupac died, Afeni Shakur had him cremated the next day. 

10. Afeni Shukur controlled Tupac’s estate

On the one-year anniversary of Tupac’s death, Afeni Shakur founded the Georgia-based Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation using the revenue from his albums released posthumously. The foundation’s goal was to provide art programs for young people. She also opened the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

In 1997, Afeni Shakur founded Amaru Entertainment, a holding company for all of her prolific artist son’s unreleased material. She also launched a fashion clothing line, Makaveli Branded, in 2003.

Afeni Shakur continued to expand the Tupac brand and in 2014 she helped create the Broadway musical “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” which featured Tupac’s music. She set up a trust to control all of Tupac’s music rights, Billboard reported.


11. Battle with Death Row Records and Entertainment One

On July 20, 2007, Afeni Shakur filed an injunction to prevent Death Row Records from selling any unreleased material from Tupac.

In 2013, she went back to court to protect the rights of her son’s music. She sued Entertainment One, an online Canada-based media platform, claiming it failed to pay Tupac’s estate royalties worth seven figures for his posthumous album of 2007, “Beginnings: The Lost Tapes.” The estate also sued for the ownership of the master recordings for all of Tupac’s unreleased music. Death Row Records initially owned the rights but it was purchased by Entertainment One in 2006, WHUR reported. Under a court ruling, Entertainment One was ordered to pay more than six figures in royalties from Tupac’s posthumous releases, and all the unreleased recordings would be returned to the estate.

12. ‘All Eyes on Me’ betrayal

The Tupac biopic, “All Eyez on Me”, was released in 2017 and Afeni Shakur was not involved, nor was she happy about the film. The idea for the biopic started in 2009 and Afeni Shakur wanted more input. In fact, according to reports, she felt betrayed by her lawyer whom she said made the deal with the production company Morgan Creek without her approval. She fired her lawyer, hired new ones, and countersued Morgan Creek.

Afeni Shakur filed a $10 million cross-complaint and in it, her Amaru Entertainment company claimed that Morgan Creek CEO James Robinson and others tried to “strong-arm” a deal for Tupac film rights, then “sabotaged the project when Amaru attempted to set it up elsewhere,” Reuters reported.

“Instead of negotiating in good faith with (Amaru), they sought to obtain the rights by concocting a nonexistent ‘agreement’ and engaging in heavy-handed threats, coercion and intimidation to interfere with and ultimately destroy the film project,” Amaru Entertainment claimed in court papers.

Morgan Creek had been the first to file a lawsuit in which it claimed that Amaru Entertainment, which controls the Tupac estate, backed out of a completed deal to sell Tupac’s life rights for a biopic.

The film took in $55.7 million at the box office against a production budget of $40 million.

13. Afeni Shakur’s passing

Afeni Shakur died at a hospital in Greenbrae, California, on May 2, 2016, after going into cardiac arrest at her home. She was 69. She will be the subject of a new movie titled “Peace, Love & Respect: The Afeni Shakur/Panther 21 Story,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

The film is the first to have the full backing and approval from the Shakur estate and Amaru Entertainment. It is still in the development phase. Jamal Joseph, one of the “Panther 21,” will serve as executive producer with Jasmine Guy, who wrote Afeni’s biography in 2005.

Photo: Afeni Shakur appears on the red carpet at the Tupac Shakur 40th Birthday Concert Celebration in Atlanta, Ga., June 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)