Attica Rebellion (09.09-13.1971); Tupac Shakur (09.06.1996);
World Trade Centers (09.11.2001)
September is a month of painful memorable events.
You think I’m crazy here today. How dare I speak the name of Tupac in the same breath as Malcolm and Martin. But in our quiet thoughts removed from the influence of friends and foes, surely we will remember that rebellion takes many forms. Some construction, some destructive. Surely we will remember that sometimes suicide is but a rebellion. Is there anyone here who would argue that Tupac had no reason to rebel and that the society had given him the equal opportunity - a level of the plain field; a secure and protected and provided for childhood; a supportive environment without racism?
Is there anyone who will make that argument? Why? From the very beginning, even when he was in his mother’s womb he was unjustly jailed for his mother was unjustly jailed. Put away on trumped-up charges of trying to bomb something. Who knows what trauma that caused him. Perhaps, even there in his mother’s womb, he decided to rebel.
If anyone should have been put in jail at the time, it should have been J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, who created a reign of terror that maimed, mistreated, and murdered countless brothers and sisters who were struggling for justice, and equality. Ironically for justice and equality, trying to make America what it claimed to be “The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.” Had America listened and not been carried away by Hoover and other racists, America would be a better place today.
And you know this is the time, 25 years ago, that the Attica uprising and slaughter occur and I keep getting a feeling that there is a connection, a link between the rebellion which took place in Attica and the death of Tupac Shakur. Black men being killed, some by their own hands, some by the hands of others, and black men being killed in a rebellion.
Who will weep for Tupac Shakur? I will weep for Tupac Shakur and I will weep for all the rebels - some we like, some we don’t. I will weep for Malcolm and Martin. Yes, and I will weep for society too, for all of us. And if we can’t weep for Tupac, let us weep for ourselves - for our society, for what we are; that we have not prepared a better society for all of our children.
Let us weep for ourselves until our tears turn into indignation. Let us weep until our indignation turns into determination. Let us weep until our determination turns into action. Let us weep until our action moves us to build a better society where all our children and all of us and generations to come can enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And the “Tupac Shakur”s will need to rebel no more and can turn their genius into things that are beautiful, that are lovely, that are good, and to love and celebrate for life - all life; black life and white life; male life and female life; young life and old life.
“‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.” Oh Lord, speed the day that it might be ever so.
I would like to conclude this article with a profoundly unforgettable emotional experience that I had with Tupac’s mother and family. What I’m going to do is quote directly from a booklet I wrote to commemorate her transition. The book is entitled “Remembering Afeni Shakur: Our Own Black Shining Princess”. In chapter two of the book, I wrote, “Afeni was a very caring, sensitive, and generous person.” Councilman Charles Barron who was, at the time, the Chief of Staff of the African People’s Christian Organization and my Chief of Staff during my presidency at the National Black United Front, who was a very close friend of Afeni. He wrote, “Thank you, Afeni, for being a beautiful, caring, black panther who fed hungry children breakfast and who gave out free shoes and clothing to needy black families. (I’ve already told you that Afeni joined our church bringing Tupac, Sekyiwa, and her sister Gloria, along with her.) I know this for a fact she was not only generous to my church and family. There were occasions when she asked me to take disabled grants from certain individuals and organizations. In addition to the money, she gave in various ways. After Tupac’s death and the word became known that Tupac had been a member of our church and that I was his pastor, and had spent the last months with him, I became in demand by youth groups. As I have stated, Tupac and I had never traveled together after his incarceration as I suggested we do. The money that Afeni gave us allowed me to travel and speak to groups. I felt that Tupac was with me.”
In addition, it was May 30th, 2001, I will never forget the occasion, I made my biweekly stops by Afeni’s house in Atlanta, Georgia. She was in good spirits, she led me into the dining room. I wrote what happened next in my book Dear Tupac: Letters to A Son.
“Your mother gave me a very pleasant surprise. She indicated that she was going to give my wife and I your (Tupac’s) dining room set. She said she thought long about it and added to the conclusion that it would be best situated in our home in Augusta, Georgia. (Your mother, Afeni, and Aunt Gloria had made several visits to our home in Augusta, Georgia.) Your mom said when she had mentioned this (giving us the dining room set) to the family, everyone was ecstatic and thought that it was the right place for it to be. She also said that it was the first major piece that you owned that she had been able to part with. Afeni had it professionally moved from Atlanta - all wrapped up and neatly placed in our home in Augusta.
It is interesting and amusing that when the moving people had placed the furniture, one of them said ‘I saw Tupac all over the house where we picked up the furniture - was that Tupac’s house?’ My wife explained that it was Tupac’s mother’s house, and his mother was giving the furniture to us. My wife, Dr. Karen Smith Daughtry, openly mused about changing the color scheme of the dining room chairs. The movers of another nationality said, ‘No, leave it alone. It is what Tupac chose!’
It looks beautiful. It seemed perfect for our house. Moreover, I know that this piece of furniture that you picked out and to contemplate your sitting at the dining room table eating and writing, too. Maybe more writing than eating is strongly exhilarating…’
I take great pride in showing the dining room set to everyone who comes into my house. I use the occasion to talk about Tupac and Afeni, the Black Panthers, and the Liberation Movement. People are usually surprised to know that Tupac had purchased the dining room set. I would explain that he had a public persona that didn’t always agree with his private life. The many marvelous things that he did were seldom if ever mentioned in most of the portrayals of his life. Well, 16 years, the furniture still sits where it was originally placed. It is a perpetual reminder of a beautiful, generous, deeply religious, and totally committed sister, and her talented son.
To be continued…