Afeni Shakur, a civil rights activist, former Black Panther, and the mother of iconic rapper Tupac Shakur, passed away on May 2, 2016, at 69. Her death shocked the world, as she had been a guiding force in continuing her son’s legacy since his untimely death in 1996.
A Life of Activism
Afeni Shakur, born Alice Faye Williams on January 10, 1947, in Lumberton, North Carolina, was an influential figure in the civil rights movement and a member of the Black Panther Party. She played a significant role in the Panther 21 trial, where she and others were accused of planning bombings and other acts of violence. After an eight-month trial, all defendants were acquitted in May 1971.
After acquittal, Afeni Shakur continued her activism, traveling across the United States, making guest appearances, and delivering lectures on various topics. On February 6, 2009, she gave the keynote address for Vanderbilt University’s Commemoration for Black History Month. She later married Gust Davis.
A Mother’s Love
Afeni Shakur’s relationship with her son, Tupac, was tumultuous but close, inspiring much of his work. Despite her struggles with addiction to crack cocaine and their impoverished childhood, Tupac expressed his love and respect for his mother in his 1995 Billboard hit “Dear Mama.” The song was later added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry, recognizing its cultural significance.
Tupac was shot multiple times while leaving a boxing match in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996, and died six days later at 25. His killing remains unsolved to this day. After his death, Afeni Shakur established the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation in 1997, providing students with art programs. She also shepherded the release of new material through his estate, ensuring that his legacy would continue to inspire future generations.
The Cause of Death
Afeni Shakur’s cause of death was initially unknown, and the Marin County Sheriff’s Office in California announced that the coroner’s office would investigate to determine the exact cause and manner of her passing. However, no official statement regarding the cause of her death has been released as of September 2023.
Afeni Shakur’s death in 2016 was a significant loss for the world, as she was not only the mother of a legendary rapper but also a dedicated civil rights activist and advocate for the arts. Her influence on Tupac’s life and work was profound, and she continued to shape his legacy even after his untimely death. While the exact cause of her passing remains unknown, her impact on the world will always be remembered.