Afeni Shakur

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Afeni Shakur
Afeni Shakur.jpg
Shakur giving a speech in 2009
Alice Faye Williams

(1947-01-10)January 10, 1947
DiedMay 2, 2016(2016-05-02) (aged 69)
Years active1968–1971
Political party Black Panther
Lumumba Shakur
(m. 1968;div. 1971)

(m. 1975;div. 1982)

Gust Davis
(m. 2004)
Children2, including Tupac Shakur

Afeni Shakur Davis (born Alice Faye Williams; January 10, 1947 – May 2, 2016) was an American political activist and member of the Black Panther Party. [1] Shakur was the mother of rapper Tupac Shakur and the executor of his estate. She founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation and also served as the CEO of Amaru Entertainment, Inc., a record and film production company she founded.


Early life

Afeni Shakur was born Alice Faye Williams on January 10, 1947, in Lumberton, North Carolina. [1] She had an older sister, Gloria "Glo" Jean. [2] She had a troubled beginning and grew up resenting her father, a truck driver who was abusive towards her mother. [3] At the age of eleven in 1958, Williams and her sister moved to the South Bronx with their mother, a factory worker. [4] [5]

Williams attended Benjamin Franklin Junior High School in the Bronx, where she demonstrated above average reading ability and her grades qualified her for honors. [5] She wrote for the school newspaper, The Franklin Flash, and in the ninth grade, won a journalism award for which she received congratulations from Mayor Robert F. Wagner. [5] In 1962, Williams passed the qualifying examinations for the Bronx High School of Science and High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. [6] [5] She chose the latter because she felt performers and actors were free spirited. [7] However, Williams couldn't afford the school supplies and she felt like an outcast at the school, so she dropped out after one term. [5] She began drifting and became member of a Bronx street gang called the Disciples. [5]

She briefly worked a postal job, becoming one of the first women mail carriers in New York. [5]


After hearing Bobby Seale speak, Williams joined the Black Panther Party when they opened an office in Harlem in 1968. [5] There she met Lumumba Shakur, a Sunni Muslim, whom she married in November 1968. [5] Following their marriage, she changed her name to Afeni Shakur. [8] [9] She became a section leader of the Harlem chapter and a mentor to new members such as Jamal Joseph. [9] [8]

The Panther 21

In April 1969, she and twenty other Black Panthers were arrested and charged with several counts of conspiracy to bomb police stations and other public places in New York. [1] Bail was set at $100,000 (equivalent to $738,929in 2021) for each of the 21 suspects. The Black Panthers decided to raise bail money for Joseph and Shakur first, so those two could work on raising bail for the remaining 19 members. [8] [10] The pre-trial started in February 1970 and the actual trial commenced on September 8, 1970. [11] 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. [11] Shakur represented herself at trial, interviewing several witnesses and arguing in court. [8] In her autobiography, Shakur wrote, "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." [12] 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. [13]

One of the people Shakur cross-examined was Ralph White, a "suspect" who had in fact, infiltrated the Black Panthers while working as an undercover policeman. [14] Shakur had repeatedly denounced White as a cop because he was "a hothead ... too arrogant for a Panther." [15] White testified it was retaliation for refusing to hire her to work in the Harlem Panther office. [14] [ clarification needed ] Shakur got White to admit under oath that he and two other agents had organized most of the unlawful activities. "She asked him if he'd ever seen her carry a gun or kill anyone or bomb anything and he answered no, no, no. Then she asked if he'd seen her doing Panther organizing in a school and a hospital and on the streets and he answered, yes, yes, yes." [16]

She and the others in the "Panther 21" were acquitted in May 1971 after an eight-month trial. [10] Altogether, Afeni Shakur spent two years in the New York Women's House of Detention before being acquitted. [11] While in the House of Detention, Shakur says, she "began relating to the gay sisters in jail beginning to understand their oppression, their anger and the strength in them and in all gay people." [17] After being released, she participated in a workshop organized by the Gay Liberation Front at the Revolutionary People's Constitutional Convention in 1970, and she continued to advocate against homophobia in the Black Panthers. [17]

Later life and death

After Shakur was acquitted, she did not return to the Black Panther Party. On June 16, 1971, she gave birth to her son, Lesane Parish Crooks, who was later renamed Tupac Amaru Shakur. [10] [18] Shakur's marriage fell apart when it was discovered that Lumumba was not the biological father of her son. His biological father is Billy Garland. Black Panther Party member Geronimo Pratt was her son's godfather. [10]

In 1975, Shakur married Mutulu Shakur and had their daughter, Sekyiwa Shakur. They got divorced in 1982. Shakur worked as a paralegal for a decade before descending into a crack cocaine addiction in the early 1980s. [19] [16]

Shakur moved her family to Baltimore, Maryland in 1984. She raised her children through welfare because she could not keep a job. [20] She relocated to Marin County in California to manage her drug use. [20] In 1989, her son left home because of her. The two later reconciled. [21] She overcame her addiction after she moved back to New York in 1991 and started Narcotics Anonymous meetings. [22] Nine months into her recovery program, Tupac sent her $5,000 even though their relationship was strained. [23]

Although Tupac struggled in his relationship with his mother, he paid tribute to her in his song "Dear Mama". [21] 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." [24]

After Tupac died in Las Vegas on September 13, 1996, she had him cremated the next day. [25] His close friends, actresses Jada Pinkett and Jasmine Guy, provided emotional support for Shakur and advised her to hire lawyers to sort out Tupac's assets. [26] Before Tupac died, he arranged for her to receive $16,000 monthly and purchased a home for her in Stone Mountain, Georgia. [22]

In 2004, Shakur released her biography, Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary. [27] In her biography, which was written by Jasmine Guy, Shakur reflected on 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. [28] 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. [11]

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. [29] She shared with people her experiences and ways in which to overcome loss. [30]

In 2010, Shakur was arrested for possessing marijuana in Lumberton, North Carolina. [31]

Shakur later married to Gust Davis. [19]

Shakur died at a hospital in Greenbrae, California, at around 10:28 p.m. on May 2, 2016, after going into cardiac arrest at her home earlier in the evening; she was 69. [32] [20] [33] [34] Her body was cremated. [35]

Estate of Tupac Shakur

Following Tupac's death, his biological father Billy Garland attempted to inherit half of his estate, which Shakur opposed because Garland was an "absentee father who contributed little to Tupac's upbringing." [36] A judge denied his claim. [36]

Exactly one year after Tupac's death, with revenue from his albums released posthumously, Shakur founded the Georgia-based Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation to provide art programs for young people and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts in Stone Mountain, Georgia. [37]

In 1997, she founded Amaru Entertainment, a holding company for all of Tupac's unreleased material. [38] She also launched a fashion clothing line, Makaveli Branded in 2003. [39]

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. [40]

In 2013, Shakur sued Entertainment One claiming they failed to pay Tupac's estate royalties worth seven figures for 2007’s Beginnings: The Lost Tapes. The estate also sued for the ownership of the master recordings for all of Tupac’s unreleased music. A court ruled Entertainment One must pay over six figures for royalties from Shakur's posthumous releases and all the unreleased recordings will go back to the estate. Death Row Records initially owned the rights to his music, which was purchased by Entertainment One in 2006. [41]

In 2014, Shakur helped create the Broadway musical Holler If Ya Hear Me , which featured Tupac's music. [20]

Shakur was not involved in the production of All Eyez on Me , a film based on Tupac's life, stating she felt betrayed by her lawyer, who made the deal with the production company Morgan Creek against her wishes. When she learned of the deal, she fired her lawyer, hired new ones, and fought against the contract and production company. She went to court several times, spending millions of dollars, which she stated led to her selling the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, eventually settling for an undisclosed amount of money. [34]

Shakur set up a trust to control all of Tupac's music rights which assigned music executive Tom Whalley as the executor of his estate following her death in 2016. [42]

See also

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