Afeni Shakur Davis was an American activist and businesswoman who was the mother of the American rapper and actor Tupac Shakur.
Afeni Shakur was born Alice Faye Williams on January 10, 1947, in Lumberton, North Carolina, the daughter of Rosa Belle, a home maker, and Walter Williams Jr., a trucker. She had a sister, Gloria Jean. She had a troubled beginning and grew up resenting her father and men in general because he was abusive and she thought her mother was weak because she did not stand up against her father. When she, her mother, and her sister left her father in 1958, they moved to the Bronx where she had difficulty in adapting to the educational setting even though her teachers thought the High School for Performing Arts was fit for her. She attended Bronx High School of Science. She became interested in street life and called herself a street fighter and a member of the Disciple Debs in Harlem.
In 1968, at the age of twenty-one, she changed her name to Afeni Shakur; Afeni is a Yoruba word for “lover of people” and Shakur is Arabic for “thankful”. She lived in Harlem, New York, and she joined the Black Panther Party. She wrote the Black Panther Party newsletter Panther Post. She led a successful campaign that led the FBI to believe the party was fading. She became a section leader of the Harlem chapter and a mentor to new members, including Jamal Joseph, Cleo Silvers and Dhoruba Bin-Wahad. She also worked with Billy Garland (Tupac’s biological father) and Geronimo Pratt (who became Tupac’s baptismal sponsor).
In April 1968, Afeni Shakur was arrested with her then husband Lumumba Shakur at their apartment in Harlem on charges of conspiring with other Black Panther members to carry out bombings in New York. With bail set at $100,000 each for the 21 suspects, the Black Panthers decided to raise bail money first for Joseph and Shakur so that those two could work on raising bail for the others. Shakur had been effective in raising bail funds for jailed Panthers.
The pre-trial started in February 1970 and the actual trial on September 8, 1970.
Charges brought against her and the other members of the Black Panther Party were attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to bomb buildings and conspiracy.
During the course of the trial, the judge dismissed twelve out of the thirty charges.
Shakur chose to represent herself in court, pregnant while on trial and facing a 300-year prison sentence and had no law degree. Shakur interviewed witnesses and argued in court. She and the others in the “Panther 21” were acquitted in May 1971 after an eight-month trial.
Altogether, Afeni Shakur spent two years in jail before being acquitted. Her son, Lesane Parish Crooks, was born on June 16, 1971. The following year, in 1972, Lesane Parish was renamed Tupac Amaru, which means “shining serpent” in Quechua.
The young Tupac was named after Túpac Amaru II, indigenous insurgent leader of the Rebellion of Túpac Amaru II, a rebellion of the Inca against the Spanish in Peru which lasted from 1780–1783.
After Afeni Shakur was acquitted of her charges, she did not return to the Black Panther Party. In 1975, she married Mutulu Shakur and had their daughter, Sekyiwa. They got divorced in 1982. She and her children moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1984. She raised her children through welfare because she could not keep a job.
She relocated to Marin County in California to manage her drug use. In 1989, her son left home because of her. The two later reconciled. She overcame her addiction after she moved back to New York in 1991 and started Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
In 2004 Afeni Shakur married Gust Davis Jr. In that same year, her biography, Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary was released.
In her biography, Afeni Shakur reflected in her childhood experiences and her upbringing as well as her involvement in the Black Panther Party. In the book, she stated that the party educated and directed her to channel her anger.
This gave her hope which she mentioned she had never experienced. She spoke about how she met men who did not abuse black women in the party. It was through the party that she met Lumumba Shakur, agreed to be his second wife and converted to Islam. She described her experiences in jail and how together with other inmates, they organized a bail fund to get some of the women out of jail.
Involvement and mentions
Although Tupac struggled in his relationship with his mother, he paid tribute to her in his song “Dear Mama”.
In the song, he reflects on his childhood, acknowledges Afeni’s troubles with addiction, and expresses his love for her:
“You always was 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.”
Her revolutionary ideas were reflected in Tupac’s music.
Before Tupac died, he arranged for her to receive $16,000 monthly and purchased a home for her in Stone Mountain, Georgia. She was the co-executor of Tupac’s estate.
Exactly one year following her son’s death, with revenue from his albums released posthumously, Afeni Shakur founded the Georgia-based Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which provides art programs for young people, and Amaru Entertainment, the holding company for all of Tupac’s unreleased material.
She was a comfort to many grieving mothers after the death of her son Tupac and traveled across America giving speeches at events. The foundation was sold shortly before her death.
She also launched a fashion clothing line, Makaveli Branded. Afeni Shakur was not involved in the production of All Eyez on Me, a film based on Tupac’s life, as she was betrayed by her lawyer, who made the deal with the production company Morgan Creek against her will. When she learned of the deal, she fired her lawyer, hired new ones, and tried to undo the deal; she went to court several times, spending millions of dollars (this being the main reason she had to sell the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts), and eventually settling for an undisclosed amount of money after it became clear she would never get the rights to the movie back.
Injunction against Death Row Records
Afeni Shakur was reportedly in federal court on July 20, 2007, to file an injunction to prevent Death Row Records from selling any unreleased material from Tupac after the company failed to prove that the unreleased songs were not part of its bankruptcy settlement.
Guest appearances and lectures
Shakur traveled across the U.S., making guest appearances and delivering lectures. On February 6, 2009, she gave the keynote address for Vanderbilt University’s Commemoration for Black History Month. She shared with people her experiences and ways in which to overcome loss.
On May 2, 2016 at 9:34pm, police and paramedics responded to Shakur’s home in Sausalito, California. She was taken to hospital, where she was pronounced dead of a suspected heart attack.
She was 69. Her body was cremated.