Afeni Shakur Davis is not only a mother-figures to one of the most important voices in hip-hop ever and the central figure in one of hip-hop’s most revered songs “Dear Mama,” she was also a Black Panther as a young adult and later, a businessperson, activist and philanthropist.
Her passing amassed honorable words from many. A lieutenant responsible for the case said that Afeni was a “well-loved, well-respected” member of the community, “a leader,” “a person people followed” and that her death was a “tragic loss for this community.” Her family statement shared that she “embodied strength, resilience, wisdom and love” and “was a pioneer for social change and was committed to building a more peaceful world.” In remembrance of her life, accomplishments and struggles, we’ve gathered ten facts that you might not know about the honorable Ms. Shakur.
1. Afeni Shakur was born on January 10, 1947 in Lumberton, North Carolina to trucker Walter and homemaker Rosa Belle Williams as Alice Faye Williams. She changed her name when she moved to New York City in 1958 and joined the Black Panthers.
2. After the death of her first husband Lumumba Abdul Shakur, she was married to his brother Mutulu Shakur from 1975 to 1982, then to Dr. Gust D. Davis Jr. since 2004, and has a total of six children/step-children: 2pac, Mopreme, Chinua, Ayize, Sekiywa and Nzingha. 2Pac’s biological father was Billy Garland but never found out until he was five; Pac only considered Mutulu to be his real father figure.
3. Afeni was an active member of the Black Panther party from 1964 to 1969. 2Pac was born a month and three days after Afeni was acquitted of charges of conspiracy to bomb multiple city landmarks.
4. When 2Pac misbehaved as a child, Afeni would make her son read The New York Times as punishment.
5. When 2Pac was 13, he and his mother were homeless. During this time, Afeni believes that the theater group that he joined, 127th Street Ensemble, saved his life. This inspired her to start the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, an arts program for young people founded a year after his death.
6. She is a reformed drug addict, having battled with her dependence on crack cocaine during his adolescence. This, along with her absence in his childhood in favor of her work in activism, caused him to lose “all respect” for his mother. They eventually made up after she completed a 12-step drug treatment program; the falling out and reconciliation was the primary topic of 2Pac’s hit 1995 song “Dear Mama.”
7. While Afeni eventually got her life straight and was seemingly in good terms with the law, his godmother, Joanne Chesimard aka Assata Shakur, is placed on the FBI’s Most-Wanted Terrorists list. She is convicted in 1977 of the murder of 34-year-old state trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike; after the conviction, she escaped prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba.
8. After the passing of 2Pac, Afeni became a co-executor of Tupac Shakur’s estate, which had a worth estimated of around $8 to $10 million in 1997 and included a library of unreleased material estimated at a value of over $100 million. Afeni became a businessperson; in 1997 she founded both Amaru Entertainment, Inc. (the holding company for all of Pac’s unreleased music) and Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation (an arts program for young people) as well as 2Pac’s clothing line Makaveli Branded in 2003, with all proceeds going to Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation.
9. She won her court battle with Death Row Records in 2007, preventing the record label from selling any unreleased material from 2Pac. The label allegedly was unable to prove that the 150 unreleased materials were not part of its bankruptcy settlements.
10. Eminem once penned a letter of appreciation to Afeni and drew a portrait of her. It was published in a 2008 posthumous memoir of 2Pac titled Tupac Remembered. In a follow-up piece published late last year, Em shared: “I could put “Dear Mama” in and d*mn near be in tears.”