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Alice Faye Williams
January 10, 1947
|Died||May 2, 2016 (aged 69)|
Sausalito, California, U.S.
|Political party||Black Panther Party|
|Partner(s)||Lumumba Shakur (1968–1971)|
Mutulu Shakur (1975–1982)
|Children||2, including Tupac Shakur|
Afeni Shakur Davis (born Alice Faye Williams; January 10, 1947 – May 2, 2016) was an American political activist and former member of the Black Panther party. She was the mother of the American rapper and actor Tupac Shakur.
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 because he was abusive. When she, her mother, and her sister left her father in 1958, they moved to the Bronx. Her teachers recommended her for the High School for Performing Arts, but she had difficulty fitting in and adapting to the formal educational setting. She tested into and was accepted at the elite 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 21, 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).
The Panther 21
In April 1969, she and a number of other Black Panthers were arrested and charged with several counts of conspiracy to bomb police stations and other public places 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 not attended law school. Shakur interviewed witnesses and argued in court.
One of the people Shakur cross-examined was Ralph White, one of the three suspects that actually was an undercover agent. White was someone whom she had suspected all along of being a cop, since he had been inciting others to violence. She got White to admit under oath that he and the other two agents had organized most of the unlawful activities. She also got White to admit to the court that the activism that they had done together was "powerful, inspiring, and ... beautiful". Shakur asked Mr. White if he had misrepresented the Panthers to his police bosses. He said "Yes". She asked if he had betrayed the community. He said "Yes."
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. When she was 24, her son, Lesane Parish Crooks, was born, on June 16, 1971. The following year, in 1972, Lesane Parish was renamed Tupac Amaru Shakur, which means "shining serpent" in Quechua. 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 after her son's death, with revenue from his albums released posthumously, Afeni Shakur founded the Georgia-based Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation to provide art programs for young people and Amaru Entertainment, a 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, stating she felt 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, which she stated lead to her selling the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, and eventually settled for an undisclosed amount of money.
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.
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. Her body was cremated.
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