On the evening of September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur was involved in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was 25-years-old. The rap-artist died six days later from respiratory failure that led to cardiac arrest.
Tupac was born in East Harlem to mother Afeni Shakur Davis and father Billy Garland. Davis was an activist and businesswoman and after her son’s death, she kept his legacy alive in a number of ways.
Read on to learn more about Afeni Shakur Davis.
1. She Died in 2016 at Age 69
Afeni Shakur Davis died in May 2016 at age 69.
According to NBC, paramedics responded to a call about a possible cardiac arrest at Davis’ home in the San Francisco suburb of Sausalito.
A member of her community told CNN, “Miss Shakur has had an extensive background not only in the community but her involvement with so many things… She’s been a leader, a person people followed. All that said about who she’s been and where’s she’s at now, this is a tragic loss for this community.”
Davis filed for divorce from her husband, Gust Davis, just six weeks before her death. TMZ reported the news, adding that the couple was together for twelve years.
2. She Is the Founder of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation
In 1997, Davis founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which funded art programs for students. Each year, the Tupac Shakur Foundation hosted an annual performing arts day camp for inner-city youth.
The camp was a success for years. According to Rolling Stone, the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts opened its official headquarters in Georgia on June 11, 2005. It “sustained itself off the efforts Shakur made to uphold her son’s legacy.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone, David Cohen, executive vice president of Interscope Records, said, “There was a bunch of kids who went through there and really benefited from it… A lot of them went to college. It was doing great work on a shoestring. And a lot of the funding was actually provided by Afeni itself, out of her estate.” Eventually, though the money dwindled and the upkeep became too much.
Without officially announcing the closing of the center, Davis sold the property in August 2015. Luckily, the new owners were inspired by the message Afeni hoped the center would spread. “It works in perfect conjunction with what Afeni was doing with the kids,” Burnett, the man who purchased the property, said. “We were told that the baton had been passed. We’re not going to allow the Shakur name to die.”
3. She Was a Black Panther as a Young Adult
Davis was a Black Panther as a young adult, along with Tupac’s father, Billy Garland.
NBC reports that in 1969, Davis and 20 other Black Panther members were arrested on “charges of conspiring to bomb police stations and departments in New York City.” Davis subsequently spent 11 months in prison.
In 2016, Jamal Joseph, a fellow Black Panther with Davis, spoke to NBC about Afeni. The two reportedly met the first day he joined the Panthers, when he was just 15– Afeni became his mentor. “Afeni would teach people how to lead themselves. She would not just help people, then leave… She made sure you knew how to get out of your own circumstances and your march toward liberation, being able to transform personally and in the community.”
Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, another fellow Black Panther with Davis, says of her, “When Afeni first came up to Harlem, with her wide-smile and enthusiasm, she had a high level of intensity, but at heart she was a country girl. She stood out because of her closely cropped hairstyle, a ‘radical rebellion’ for black women at the time.”
4. She Opened up About Her Drug Use in a 2005 Interview
In a 2005 interview with Today, Davis opened up about her drug use. She admits that when Tupac’s career was kicking off, she was in the “heyday of using.” She tells Today, “Someone told me that Tupac was on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show,’ and I thought they were lying.”
CNN writes, “In the mid-1980s, she was homeless in New York and ‘messing around with cocaine’… Despite the drug use, she was still coherent enough to realize that Tupac would become a product of the streets if she didn’t make different choices.”
At first, Davis enrolled Tupac in a Harlem theater group, where he honed his performance skills. Later on, Davis and Tupac moved to Maryland, where Tupac was enrolled in the Baltimore School for the Arts. CNN writes that this is when the rapper confronted his mother about her drug use and asked local drug dealers not to sell her drugs.
CNN reports Davis as saying in an interview, “He asked me if I could handle it, and I said yeah because I’d been dipping and dabbing all my life… What pissed him off is that I lied to him.” Tupac then said if his mother did not get clean, she could “forget about being involved in his life.”
She did get clean and was able to rebuild her relationship with her son before he was killed in 1996.
5. She Is the Subject of Tupac’s 1995 Song “Dear Mama”
Tupac’s mother is the subject of his 1995 hit song, “Dear Mama”.
The song starts, “I love you. I love you. You are appreciated.”
“Dear Mama” was released as part of Tupac’s third studio album Me Against the World. The song hit No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was certified Platinum on July 13, 1995.
The song has stood the test of time, and was added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress in 2010.