Remembering Afeni Shakur: Our Own Black Shining Princess (cont.)
III. Afeni fought many battles - some we know of, and others were unknown to us. Jamal Joseph, who was Afeni's protégé, told the story of her fight for Patient's Rights in the hospital. In fact, he said that she was one of the first to take up this fight.
She was a gallant, self-giving warrior. Alas, many of us didn't give her the love and appreciation she so richly deserved, but she never stopped loving us! She never stopped struggling for us.
There was a time when she opened her soul to me and revealed all of the hurt, disappointment, and betrayals. Tears came to her eyes. She trembled with emotion. After the long conversation, she gathered herself, smiled, and ended on a positive note.
I remember it well. It was on a warm summer night in June when I arrived at her home in Atlanta, GA. When I first started the bi-weekly classes, I used to stay at the hotel. Afeni didn't like the arrangement. The last time I visited her, she gave me a tour of the entire house. She showed me the bedrooms and the other places I could sleep. Then, she looked at me and said, "Now, you don't need a hotel."
Then, she gave me a phone. "This is your line. This is your home," she said. I smiled. I was deeply moved. I could only say, "Thank you," and give her a big hug. She was very talkative - more so than usual. I recorded the experience in my book, "Dear 2Pac: Letters to a Son":
"When we arrived at your mother's house, I immediately observed two new additions:
A new black wrought iron table and chairs, with a canopy, and off in the distance, a bed of beautiful flowers.
'Aunt Faye is always doing something new around here,' Bill said.
"I was glad when they told me your mother was home. I had been told she was going to North Carolina. I passed Tramaine who was seated at the kitchen table. As I walked down the hall, I passed your pictures on the wall.
"Your mother was lying in bed reading when I walked in. The TV was playing. I went over to the bed. She raised up. I gave her a big hug. 'Good to see you,' I said. 'Love ya," she responded. 'How was your flight and travel?' 'Great. How are you feeling?' 'Super, thank God.'
"I walked across the room to the doorway leading to the deck. I surveyed the hilly terrain. The green trees, the ruggedness, interspersed by flowers here and there, some planted, some growing wild, but nonetheless beautiful; the quietness, the chirping birds, the fragrance of Georgia pine, it was a picturesque scene before me.
"I turned back to face your mother. She motioned me to sit. We talked about the Father's Day Program on June 17th, how it was connected to your birthday, and how it was great.
"We continued small talk about family and church. We discussed the Hip-Hop conference, and her missing her speaking engagement in Newark because the flight was canceled. I mentioned I had tried to get there and couldn't. Then, she said something I will always remember. She said she heard a person, I think it was Jennifer Holiday, who was about to perform at the White House, say, 'If God gives you a vision, He will give you the provision. "The film crew was ready for her interview. She had mentioned this British film crew, who specialized in documentaries, was here to interview her for a film they were making on the impact of culture on filmmaking in the early seventies.
"It was quite a setup. It seemed they would never stop bringing in equipment. The interview was done on the veranda. Your mother, Tupac, was absolutely brilliant.
"She talked about her involvement in the struggle for community control, which led to membership in the Black Panther Party. She was enthralled by the picture of Huey Newton in the wicker chair, the carrying of guns into the State Capitol, and standing on the Capitol's steps with guns.
"September 1968 - she joined the Panthers. April 1969 - armed policemen busted into her apartment and arrested her and others on 156 charges. For 25 months, she was tied down with the criminal justice system. She was out on bail, which was revoked when some of the 20 brothers decided they would flee. While on trial and acting on her own defense, she was carrying you. She mentioned the letter that Murray Kempton, a columnist for Newsday, wrote, encouraging her.
"Some of the things she touched upon were:
During those days, they were young and optimistic. They really believed they could change the world.
She and the family were not talented ones; you were, and you took care of them.
"On the 'Blaxploitation' tum, she saw them all and took you with her to study them. She began to name them and analyze them:
SweetBack - SweetBack got away, which had never happened before. (She liked that.)
Super Fly - She liked the struggle to overcome, and Blacks were shown as beautiful and intelligent.
Cornbread Earl and Me
"Yes, she liked something about them. At least people were working, sharpening their talents, and making a living. We don't control the movie industry. So, when we get a part, we should take it until we get better. She said she grew up with Bill Robinson, Shirley Temple, and Lena Horne. She said Black power influenced all aspects of culture. She said that as a result of the stress of the struggle and trying to raise a family amid police harassment, she was driven to drugs and believes that many of our strugglers suffered mental and emotional breakdowns, addictions, and suicide.
"As I said, Pac, the interview was simply fantastic. The movie people were so impressed. They offered to help her in any way she desired. She told them to get in touch with one of her staff persons.
"After the interview, we had the study session. Our study subject was the next four steps in getting what you want from God. They included Fasting, Forgiveness, Obey the Rules, and Association. Last time, we dealt with "Think Positive." So, we covered five. There were 14. There were only three people in the class - Bill, Sekyiwa, and Kenny's wife. We had a good discussion. Everyone participated. Everybody said it was a great session.
"After the class, as we were heading out, your mother came into the kitchen. For some reason, she started about the Panther days and her life in general. I can't tell you all she said, Pac, it was too personal, and honesty regarding the behavior of some of our leaders is not for public disclosure.
What can be written, you probably have heard, and I have written about before here and there. (It was during that conversation when I asked her about my speech delivered to the Metropolitan Chapter of the Black United Front at the House of the Lord Church on April 14, 1981.)
“I stayed at Helena's house. When I arrived, Jamala was there. Both of them greeted me with hugs, and Helena had graciously laid out everything for me.
“It was long before I fell asleep. I kept thinking about the day's events and being here, and listening to your mother. It was almost 4:30 am when I was awakened and rolled out of bed at Sam. Next stop: Columbia S.C.
"When I arrived, I immediately drafted a letter, which I later sent to Afeni, thanking her for her hospitality and sharing her life story with me. I appreciated the trust, faith, and confidence she placed in me."
To be continued...