[Marxism] "Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary." ( Tupac's mother)
cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Fri Mar 12 08:03:31 MST 2004
Tale of a Black evolutionary
Afeni Shakur and Jasmine Guy
By Salah Ahmed
The Michigan Citizen
Growing up, Afeni Shakur told people her great-grandfather was an Indian.
For years, she remembered her great-grandfather - who was really white - as
one of the Lumbee people, the North Carolina descendants of white colonists
and different Indian tribes along the east coast.
"And that was cool with me because the Lumbee people didn't take no shit
from white folks," she said in an interview for a new biography.
Shakur was a child when the Lumbee, a tribe still fighting for full federal
recognition, told their Black neighbors to stand back while they chased away
the Ku Klux Klan, which had tried to impose a ten o'clock curfew on their
North Carolina Indian and Black community.
The childhood experience convinced Shakur of the effectiveness of armed
resistance. It may be why Shakur, 58, joined the Black Panther Party at the
age of 22, and also why Jasmine Guy, a dancer and actress, wrote a book
about her: "Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary."
Guy, whom most people know from the Cosby Show spin off, "A Different
World," met Shakur in 1994 while accompanying her friend, Jada
Pinkett-Smith, to a New York City courthouse where Shakur's son, a close
friend of Pinkett-Smith's, was to answer to sexual assault charges.
Tupac Shakur, who would be gunned down in Las Vegas two years later, had
been shot five times the night before in the foyer of a Manhattan recording
studio. At the courthouse, he was in a wheelchair and wrapped in bandages.
Guy, an acquaintance of his, met his mother in the hallway and the two
became close friends.
The friendship gave Guy a chance to improve on other books that mentioned
Shakur. One of those was "Look for Me in the Whirlwind: A Collective
Autobiography of the NY21," about the 1971 trial of Shakur and 20 other
leading Black Panthers charged with plotting to carry out bombings around
New York City.
"I wasn't very cooperative with this right here," Shakur told Guy, holding
up the book after spotting it on her friend's bed. "And this right here, in
the back of the book - 'Letter to My Unborn' - was the one concession. They
had to print this letter if I was to participate."
Shakur, who was pregnant with her son and in jail through some of the 25
months that the Panther 21 trial lasted, was the lead defendant in what
became the most publicized case against the Black Panther Party for Self
Defense, founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in Oakland,
Guy, 37, too young to remember much, eggs Shakur on: "It was a great fight,
Afeni, the war against oppression, the revolution, whatever you want to call
it. And the soldiers were young, hopeful, angry, aggressive, intelligent,
Shakur's terse reply: "It was a war we lost." Guy, her nostalgia crushed,
cannot believe her ears.
"That's right. We lost it. We dropped the ball . . . We were in over our
heads," Shakur continues. "And, worst of all we were not listening . . . to
old people. We had removed any semblance of spirituality from our movement.
So, when the danger came, what did we have?"
Not enough, apparently, of what Shakur had - an early sense of focus. When a
boy in school made fun of her dark skin, short hair and flat chest, she
said, she went straight to the problem's source: "'I kicked his ass.'"
Shakur also kicked a crack habit that took her through one indifferent
relationship after another, caused her to have an abortion during what she
describes as one of her life's lowest points, and brought her to abandon her
daughter, Sekiywa, who was younger than Tupac, to the care of others.
It's difficult not to approach the biography with some skepticism. For one
thing, it is written by a friend. On that score the book sounds remarkably
honest; the women's friendship might have helped Shakur to be as forthcoming
as she is.
The bigger problem is that the book is not about someone famous, after all,
but about the mother of someone famous whose life was taken prematurely.
But it isn't just her famous son that makes Shakur's story so unique and
interesting. Drug addiction leaves few survivors. Shakur's notoriety as a
Panther went down with the Movement, and there were thousands like Shakur
who, for some reason another, decided not only to "turn on" and "tune in,"
but to "drop out" for good. Shakur decided to bounce back.
Among other things, this is a book about forgiveness. Shakur's children,
including Tupac before he died, forgave her, which may be why she smiles
wherever she appears these days.
Through a friend, she opens a window into a soul tormented by all kinds of
demons, internal and external ones. This is a snapshot of Shakur, now a
grandmother, at a time when those demons have mostly let her be.
Email: invisibleafrican at yahoo.com
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