Afeni Shakur, the political activist mother of slain rap icon Tupac Shakur who inspired her son’s work and strived to keep his legacy alive, has died. She was 69.
The Marin County, California, Sheriff’s Department confirmed her death on Twitter. The agency said deputies were responding to a report of a possible cardiac arrest at Shakur’s Sausalito home, but no other details were provided.
Born Alice Faye Williams, Shakur changed her name as an adult when she became politically active and joined the Black Panther movement. She was pregnant with Tupac in 1971 and incarcerated while she and other Panthers faced conspiracy charges that were later dismissed.
As she bounced from New York City to Baltimore to California, falling deeper into drugs and the Black Panther movement, she enrolled young Tupac in several arts schools and programs, where he honed the natural musical and acting gifts that would make him a hip-hop icon.
Afeni Shakur was an inspiration for her son’s music and oversaw his musical catalog and legacy after his death. She was the subject of Tupac Shakur’s 1995 hit ‘Dear Mama,’ and fans on social media referenced the song in tweets and posts.
Much of her life was consumed with keeping Tupac Shakur’s legacy alive, including opening the now defunct Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts in Georgia. The project was focused on helping at-risk youth.
“Arts can save children, no matter what’s going on in their homes,” Afeni Shakur told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview. “I wasn’t available to do the right things for my son. If not for the arts, my child would’ve been lost.”
A movie about Tupac Shakur’s life, All Eyez on Me, is set to be released in the fall with Danai Gurira playing the role of Afeni Shakur. Afeni Shakur served as an executive producer for the film.
Tupac Shakur died in 1996 at age 25, the victim of a drive-by shooting. The killing remains unsolved.
Conspiracies abound about Tupac Shakur’s shooting, but they were all a waste of time to Afeni Shakur.
“We decided to deal with the living. This is justice for me,” she said in 2005. “I need to do what God has put in front of me to do, and it ain’t trying to figure out who killed Tupac.”