March 10, 1994: Tupac is sentenced to fifteen days in a Los Angeles jail for punching out director Allen Hughes. (Hughes and his brother, Albert, had dropped Tupac from Menace II Society.)
February 10, 1994
Melrose Boulevard, CA
After a relatively boring morning in court we decide to lunch at a sunny, posh Italian restaurant Tupac remembers enjoying. Even as we dine, a New York court is examining evidence in the rape case that has become Tupac’s personal demon.
The rape charges surfaced amongst a barrage of others. Most significantly they came a short three weeks after the cop shooting case earned him front page status. The obvious irony is that he was accused of rape as “Keep Your Head Up”—the most genuine peace offering to B-girls to date—flooded the radio waves and implored Black men to love and respect Black women. The alleged victim claims she was sodomized by Tupac and two other co-defendants. A fourth suspect disappeared from the hotel room before the police arrived and has never been found. While admitting that he and the alleged victim did engage in consensual sex since their first meeting at Nell’s, Tupac emphatically denies that he raped anyone. He claims that he and the alleged victim did not even engage in sexual intercourse the night of the alleged rape. Nor did he aid and abet in, as New York dailies reported, and “gangbang.”
Earlier this week I spoke with a sister who’s been active in nationalist struggle, as has Tupac’s family, for years. I admire this sister for her political consistency, her grassroots work ethics and her genuine desire to understand and support young people. She is torn with ambivalence, as are most of us, because of the charges that Tupac allegedly raped a young woman in a New York hotel room. She’s met with other sisters, her comrades in struggle, and has decided that his behavior is neither revolutionary nor New Afrikan. She and her sisters are planning to share their position with Pac through Watani, also a long-standing political and community activist. I’ve not yet found a way to talk about the real concerns and criticism that Black women in particular have around this case. I decide that these sisters and their obvious integrity is a possible way to get him to respond to these issues. What I don’t realize is that in the week that passed they’ve not spoken with him.
‘Fuck those bitches! I don’t need that shit!”
I’m frightened by his venom.
“I’m on the front lines of this shit. Not 30 years ago. Now! Where were they when we didn’t have no food or fucking electricity? When we were eating hard-boiled eggs and they pulling off million dollar heists and shit!”
He’s referring to the years spent as an infant of the Black power movement when his mother, a convicted and certified revolutionary, found herself struggling to support her baby. The “million dollar heists” were those bank and brinks robberies, some of them foiled, that placed every known member of the Black Liberation Army of the FBI’s most wanted list. “Fuck them! I need support not criticism!”
I’ve opened a painful space for Tupac. That of betrayal. That I should expect Tupac to regard these sisters’s opinion with more weight than anyone else’s has to do with my notion of Tupac’s respect for legacy and the movement in general.
Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, was numbered amongst the Panther 21, members of the New York Panthers accused of conspiracy to blow up the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. She and her comrades stood defiantly on the principle of anti-imperialism during their hearings. They were imprisoned when she was pregnant with Tupac. In 1986 Tupac’s stepfather, Mutulu Shakur (also Mopreme’s biological father), was convicted of conspiracy linked to the Assata Shakur case. An extremely high profile political prisoner, Assata was liberated from prison in New Jersey after being convicted of killing a white police officer who killed her partner Zayd Shakur, one fateful night on the New Jersey Turnpike. In Assata’s autobiography she recalls reuniting with Afeni, then pregnant with Tupac, in a prison gymnasium.
To suggest, as many do, that Tupac should be “responsible to his legacy” in some ways simplifies the legacy. But to suggest that Tupac’s interpretation of this legacy should fit some romantic ideal of “the movement” is to deny reality specificity. Tupac’s childhood, those years underground, above ground, the years when his disillusioned mother began smoking crack, are as much a party of his legacy as the black leather jackets and clenched fist.
Outside the restaurant a vagrant brother is arguing with himself. He’s oily and tattered, but he wants no money. He may not even want an audience for the argument he is staging with his ghosts.
“That’s gonna be me. Watch!” Tupac is actor now; he performs a dead-on impersonation of the schizophrenic brother.
“Standing on a fucking corner talking about, ‘Fucking black panthers hip-hop bitches bitches niggas niggas get away from me you motherfuckas! Back up-It’s loaded.’ He laughs then looks back as he crosses the street. “Yup, if I make it. That’s gonna be me.”