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The 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop Part Three

I continued with my history lesson on African people and religion. I said one of the reasons that I believed God saved me was to send me on this mission to teach our people that the Bible and Christianity have African roots, and to encourage struggle for human rights and self determination, especially for oppressed people. When I finished, he stared at the floor for a long time. He looked at me and said, “I didn’t know that Reverend.” I said, “I know, this truth has been kept from us by both white folks and blacks who benefited from our ignorance.”

On one occasion he told me something that was startling which revealed his toughness, tenacity, his fierce determination, his intuitiveness. He said when he wanted to achieve something, he would find a picture of the thing desired or draw a picture. Then he would put this picture on the wall over his bed - and he would stare at the picture long and often. He would not sleep in the bed until he had achieved his goal. Now we know why he rose like the Phoenix Bird of Greek mythology, from the ashes to soar to dazzling heights.

He was all smiles one day. He couldn’t wait to tell me of the good deed he had done. He had secured tickets to a Stevie Wonder concert for an officer who was going through a time of terrible loss. He explained all that he had to do to make it happen, and he wanted it to be a surprise.

I felt particularly elated on one visit when a decision had to be made on which one of his records should be released. He asked me my opinion. He described what the records were about. I then gave him my opinion. That is the decision he made.

It was not all serious. It was not all complaints and soberness. We had some light moments. Of course, you couldn’t be around Tupac too long without laughter and fun times. His departure from the hospital after I prayed for him, we really got a big laugh out of that. I would say, “Do you realize thirty minutes after I prayed for you, you came back from the jaws of death? You are special. God has a special work for you to do. When you are out you better do the right thing.” He would laugh and say, “Yeah, I know, I know.” And I would say, “You’re special, do you hear me? God has given you special talents, watched over you, raised you up, you better do the right thing!”

He mentioned this cousin who was a preacher who always told him the same thing. Maybe, maybe, if there is any criticism– maybe, maybe, what appeared to some of us to be his confused, troubled, complex behavior, maybe, maybe, it all stemmed from his fleeing from God. His fighting, his struggling was, at bottom not so much against society, yes surely that too, but at bottom, he was running away from God. Like Jonah of the Bible. He ran away from God. He created trouble and problems on the ship and decided to throw him to the sea where a big fish was there to swallow him up once he confessed, agreed to do God’s will, the fish spit him up on shore and Jonah did what God wanted.

Tupac ran away. He was thrown overboard but there was no big fish to swallow him up and spit him on shore. Or maybe another way of saying it is when he was swallowed up by the jail system and spit back out on the streets, unlike Jonah, he…well.

So, to return to the prayer. I would say to him, “There are three special prayers the Lord answered when I prayed. One was you; praying you off the death bed so that in 30 minutes you could get up and leave. And there was another which had to do with the Gulf War. I told him how I was invited to Washington to pray in the U.S. House of Representatives. Of course I prayed that God would end the war in the Gulf. On my way back home that evening while riding in the car, I heard that President Bush had stopped the war. When I arrived home, I called back to Washington and told people there, “The next time you have a war or some big problem, don’t take so long to call me!” And then I would tell him how I prayed at the Democratic National Committee meeting after the 1992 Democratic Convention, and Clinton and Gore were elected. We would have a big laugh. Then I would say, “If you ever have a big problem – don’t bother me with little stuff– but if you ever have a big problem, let me know. Send for me.” Alas, he had a big problem but he didn’t send for me. I regret I was not there.

Maybe it would have been useless - maybe he knew it.

I continued to visit him even upstate at Clinton Correctional Institution. He was married there. We continued to make plans about doing good things. He had refined his Atlanta plan somewhat. It was the last time I saw him alive.

Now he is gone– gone forever– at least in the flesh. But in some ways, he will never be finally gone. His music will always be with us and the factors and forces which shaped him and drove him will be around for a long time.

Yes, he’s gone - and some will say good riddance. Some will laugh and some will cry. Some will ask who will weep for Tupac Shakur and to that crowd and to the world I will say “I will weep for Tupac Shakur.”

I will weep for the young man I knew. I will weep for Tupac and for all the rap artists, for the good and for the bad; for all of them and for us who are being persuaded and programmed by forces which some of us only dimly understand, and some of us understand not at all.

I will weep for Tupac for he is but the reflection of the larger society. On the one side he is the victim of racist forces which wreaked havoc upon his ancestors and still continues to wreak havoc upon people of African Ancestry and on the other side glorifies the sex and violence for which it condemns him. Tupac understood this and he fought and organized, twisted and squirmed, tossed and turned as he realized that he reflected the very society that he hated.

I will weep for Tupac. Yes, and I will weep for all young black males especially, who are both the victims and the victimizers of this violent and hypocritical, materialistic, racist society.

And I will weep for the parents, especially the mothers. For always there are the mothers, which in itself is instructive. I will weep for the mothers of these slain youths and the mothers of the youths that [did the slaying].

Yes, I will weep for Afeni who has known bitter disappointment and now another dream, her son, her only son, is dashed upon the rocks.

I will weep for Tupac Shakur. For all that he was and for all he could have been. I will weep for all black youth whose very survival is at stake - all that diseases don’t get, the drugs get. All that the drugs don’t get, violence gets - violence at their own hands and violence by the society, especially the police and racist murderers. And all that the [violence doesn’t] get, the penitentiary killers get: the miseducation, the joblessness, the denial of goods and services, the dilapidated houses and filthy streets.

I will weep for them all.

I will weep for Yusef Hawkins, Randy Evans, Jay Parker, Arthur Miller;

I will weep for Tupac for he is our son. He is our child and his rebelling was just as real and against the same forces that caused the rebellion, although of a different kind, of Malcolm and Martin.

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 constructive, some destructive. Surely we will remember that sometimes suicide is but rebellion. Is there anyone here who would argue that Tupac had no reason to rebel; that the society had given him equal opportunity – a level playing field; a secure and protected and provided for childhood; a supportive environment without racism.

Is there anyone here who will make that argument? Why from the very beginning, even while he was in his mothers womb, he was unjustly jailed. For his mother was unjustly jailed, put away on trumped up charges of trying to bomb something. Who knows that 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 this time, it should have been J. Edgar Hoover, head of the F.B.I. , who created a reign of terror that maimed, mistreated and murdered countless brothers and sisters who were struggling for justice, equality, ironically 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 occurred 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. Black men being killed, some by their own hands, some by the hands of others but black men in rebellion.

I will weep for Tupac and I will weep for all the rebels - some we like and some we don’t. I will weep for Malcolm, Martin. Yes and I will weep for this 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 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 Shakurs will need rebel no more and can turn their genius to things that are beautiful, that are lovely, that are good and to the love and celebration of life – all life; black life and white life; male life and female life; young and old life. Ah, ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. Oh Lord speed the day that it might be ever so.


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