Afeni Shakur, the woman responsible for birthing one of hip hop’s most revered icons, has died. She was 69 years old. In the 1990s she was a source of creative inspiration for her son (Tupac Shakur), serving as the primary subject in one of his classic songs “Dear Mama.” This ode to single mothers has transcended the progression of time, as it highlights the numerous challenges that currently affect Black women and their fatherless children.
Apart from her son’s legacy, Ms. Shakur was held in high-esteem within the Black community for her contributions to the civil rights movement, including a highly-publicized stint with the Black panther party in the 1960s. Her militancy and contempt for law enforcement spilled into the psychological framework of her only son, Tupac, who while in the public eye developed a reputation of infamy for his numerous run-ins with the judicial system.
According to the New York Daily News, Marin County Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters responded to Shakur’s home in Sausalito, Calif., Monday night after she suffered a possible heart attack, the sheriff’s office said Tuesday morning.
She was taken to a local hospital and died just before 10:30 p.m.
“At this point there is nothing to indicate to us that there was any foul play, nothing suspicious about this other than this being sadly a natural event that has occurred,” Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Doug Pittman said Tuesday.
“She was experiencing some type of physical discomfort,” Pittman said.
“Attempts were made to try to remedy those problems at home, but when they got more severe, it was at that time the family friend called 911 and asked for medical help.”
Paramedics arrived around 9:30 p.m. and immediately began to provide CPR, he said.
She was rushed to Marin General Hospital, where she was treated for about an hour before she died, Pittman said.
The investigation has been turned over to the coroner’s division, where officials will speak to family members about Shakur’s recent health history and research her medical records to determine whether an autopsy is needed, he said.
“This is a tragic loss to this community,” Pittman said.
Shakur, born Alice Faye Williams, changed her name when she moved to New York City and joined the Black Panther movement. She and other party members were arrested in 1969 and charged with conspiracy to bomb multiple busy city landmarks.
In May 1971, she was acquitted on all charges after she represented herself in court while heavily pregnant. She gave birth to Tupac just one month later.
In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Ms. Shakur once reflected on questions about the presence of violence in her son’s music.
“I think we are in denial about our own violence when we look at the rap community and say, ‘That’s where the violence is,’ ” she said. “Violence. Is there any place we can go right now where there isn’t any? I’d love to be there.