Get To Know More About The People That Helped Shape Pac Into The Man He Was
In his hit single, Dear Mama we hear some of the origins of Tupac’s birth and how he came into this world. From rapping about his non existing relationship with his biological father, to showing his gratitude to his mother for fighting hard to raise him and his sister, Tupac has never shied away from the subject of family. From birth, Tupac Amari Shakur was born to be different. His parents met when they were both Black Panthers, his stepfather was a Black Nationalist and his Godmother escaped federal prison then fled to Cuba. Below we highlighted the major figures involved in raising Tupac, and a little bit of their history. Read all about the village that raised Tupac.
Billy Graham is Tupac’s biological father who was abandoned Tupac when he was five. Graham was a Black Panther in Jersey City, while Afeni Shakur was a member of the NYC Chapter. the two met at a meeting in 1969 and began a short love affair in 1970. Afeni was arrested as part of “Panther 21” case. By the time Pac was five years old, Graham and Afeni Shakur spilt up and he abandoned the family. Pac went on to believe that his biological father was dead, most notably Pac wrote Papa’z Song about his relationship -or lack thereof with his father. The two were estranged that until the 1994 shooting at Quad Studios, afterward Garland was by his side in the hospital and they began to rebuild a relationship. When Pac went to jail for sexual assault in 1995, Graham and his wife frequently visited Pac. Two years after Pac’s death, Garland sued Afeni for half of his estate. In the lawsuit, he claimed that Afeni stated a false claim on Pac’s death certificate by listing that Pac’s father was deceased. After taking a DNA test, he was proven to be Pac’s biological father, but he lost the case and was not granted half of the estate.
The muse to the single Dear Mama, Afeni Shakur was born Alice Williams in 1947. A member of the Black Panther Party, she played a key role in raising bail money for jailed party members with Tupac’s godmother, Geromino Pratt. In 1969, she along with 21 other panther members were arrested and charged for planning bombings in two NYC police stations and an educational office in Queens. An undercover detective replaced all the dynamite with faux ones and all panther members believed to be involved were arrested. After an eight-month trial, all 21 members were acquitted of 156 different charges including conspiracy. At the time, the trial was the longest and most expensive trial in New York City history.
Afeni also struggled with drugs while Raising Tupac in the late ’80s, “and even though you were a crack fiend, mama, you always was a black queen…” was how Pac described it in the song Dear Mama. Afeni called her addiction “the pit of the garbage can, underneath the corroded bottom of the garbage can, where only the maggots lived.” She was never embarrassed about the song, she actually embraced it for speaking to women who were in the similar situation.
After Pac’s death, Afeni founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation that focused on art programs for youth and young adults and Amaru Entertainment, the company for all Tupac’s unreleased material. She fought Death Row Records. In 2007 she sued them to prevent them from selling any unreleased music from Tupac during the company’s bankruptcy. She won and received 150 unreleased songs. Until her dying day, she went around the country speaking on various subjects including social activism, feminism, and Tupac.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur was born in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Jamaica, Queens at the age of seven. His passion for political and social consciousness after he experienced the struggles of helping his blind mother receive benefits from social services.
Since the age 16, Dr. Shakur has been a part of the New Afrikan Independence Movement. He, just like other members of the movement were targeted under Counterintelligence Program carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (COINTELPRO). This was a secret police strategy used in the U.S. starting in the 1960’s to destroy and neutralize progressive and revolutionary organizations. It is believed that Dr. Shakur’s resistance to this program led to his arrest and trial.
Dr. Shakur worked close with the Black Panther Party, supporting his brother Lumumba Shakur and Zayd. Dr. Shakur worked with the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), a Black Nationalist group and was also a member of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika which endorsed the founding of an independent New Afrikan (Black) Republic and the establishment of an independent Black state in the southern U.S. Dr. Shakur also did work with the Lincoln Detox (detoxification) Community (addiction treatment) Program as a political education instructor, eventually he helped with counseling and withdraw treatments. His role evolved to the Program’s Assistant Director and remained associated with the program until the late ’70s.
In the 1980s, Shakur and Marilyn Buck were indicted on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges. While reportedly on the run, he became the 380th person added by the FBI to the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. He was arrested February 12, 1986, in California by the FBI. Shakur and Buck were tried in 1987 and convicted on May 11, 1988, and sentenced to 60 years. He was denied parole earlier this year.
Geronimo Pratt was Tupac’s godfather and worked closely with Afeni Shakur at the NYC chapter of the Black Panthers. He, just like Dr. Mutulu was targeted by COINTELPRO, the FBI’s illegal spying operation. In 1972, Pratt was convicted of the 1968 murder of Caroline Olsen. Pratt was identified as the killer by her husband. A police informant testified that Pratt had confessed to him, and discussed the murder with him on several occasions. In 1997 his conviction was vacated on the grounds that the prosecution had concealed evidence that might have influenced the jury’s verdict. After being released he won a $4.5 million lawsuit settlement against the LAPD and FBI for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. He eventually moved Tanzania, and died of a heart attack in 2011.
Tupac’s step-aunt and godmother Assata Shakur has a $2 million bounty on her head. She has been exiled, living in Cuba since escaping jail. She was a member of the Black Panther Party, which made her the subject of COINTELPRO surveillance as well. In 1973, Assata was pulled over by the New Jersey State Police, shot twice and then charged with the murder of a police officer. Assata spent six and a half years in prison where she was beaten, starved and forced to live in unsafe conditions. She escaped from the maximum security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women before fleeing to Cuba. She believes had she stayed in jail, she would’ve been killed in police custody. She was granted political asylum in Cuba shortly after arriving.
“I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one.”
On the 32nd anniversary of the Turnpike shootings, Assata was classified as a “domestic terrorist” by the FBI. The FBI put an award of $1 million for her capture dead or alive. ,The bounty became the largest reward placed on an individual in the history of New Jersey. In 2015 Assata became the first woman on the “FBI Most Wanted” and the reward for her capture and return was also doubled to $2 million. With the embargo between the U.S. and Cuba lifted after 50 years, many suspect that the FBI will create a plan to capture her in Cuba. These rumors have reportedly caused Assata to live “off the radar” in Cuba to this day.