In late 2003, former writer and movie critic for Bean Soup Times, Kam Williams, had the opportunity to sit and talk to Afeni Shakur, mother of legendary rapper, Tupac. Afeni, who is the CEO of Amaru Records and the founder of the Tupac Shakur Foundation, an arts and cultural organization which offers career opportunities to disadvantaged youth, spoke about her then latest release of the Tupac: Resurrection documentary. The documentary was released on November 14, 2003, and chronicles the life and death of the rather humble and poetic man behind the veil of society.
Before Tupac was born, she joined the Black Panther Party shortly after dropping out of high school and became famous as one of the New York 21, a cadre of Black Panther leaders jailed by J. Edgar Hoover on fabricated charges of fomenting race war. Afeni and others alike, would be acquitted of 156 trump-up counts. Her son would enter the world just a month after her release from the Women’s House of Detention. June 16, 1971; a revolution was born.
KW: Why did you decide to make this movie?
AS: “For us, it was like, Tupac would’ve wanted this, so we gotta do it.”
KW: How much did your radical politics shape your son?
AS: “Well, I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t like to say what influenced my son, which is another reason why we did this movie. No one speaks for Tupac better than Tupac. The movie is an effort to show, in a context, what affect the Black Panther Party in his mom’s life had on him. We really need to remember that it was his Mom who was a Black Panther. Tupac was born one month and three days after I was acquitted. He was born with my baggage. What he did as a human being was to try to make the best out of what he came here with.”
KW: How did you raise him?
AS: “I tried to impart to him a sense of integrity and of accepting responsibility for whatever we do. And I imparted to him a thirst for knowledge.”
KW: How did you decide which family photos to include in the documentary?
AS: “It’s been seven years and I am yet unable to go through my son’s things. Other members of my family and the MTV production team did a magnificent job. But I am not able to do anything like that.”
KW: Tupac’s east Coast arch-rival, Biggie Smalls, who was implicated in his murder, is on the soundtrack, too. What’s up with that?
AS: “I like that we were able to honor Miss Wallace [Biggie’s Mom] with that song. She always says nice very things about me, so I wanted to thank her like that. I’m very proud of that song.”
KW: Do you enjoy seeing Tupac as a cultural icon up on the big screen?
AS: “I am never able to watch him as anything except my son. I am amazed, however, to observe how brilliant he was, because i know he came from me. And I’m like, ‘Where’d that come from?’”
KW: Is it hard for you to do interviews like this?
AS: “The reason it’s not hard is because I don’t do them every day. You must remember, I’m not an entertainer. I’m the mother of the murdered person who is the subject of this movie. I remain Tupac’s Mom every day. And as his mother, today, this is my responsibility. And that’s the way I am able to do it. So, this is okay.”
KW: How would you like Tupac to be remembered?
AS: “I’d like people to remember him as a complete artist. I would like for them to be touched and moved by his music and by his art. To judge him by the totality of his work. If they do that, it would be sufficient for me.”
KW: Do you think the movie will be of interest even to people who weren’t his fans?
AS: “Whether they liked him or did not like him, I think the integrity of the project speaks for itself. People who didn’t know him will discover Tupac. The good thing is that you see every aspect of his personality.”
KW: We grew up in a much more socially conscious age than the one we have now. Why do you think the hip-hop generation has such different values, which offend older people?
AS: “What I think happened was our generation was frightened into panic. And I believe that we spent a lot of time lying to our young people, hiding the things that we are responsible for. And blaming our young people for what we have done. That’s what I think about my generation. Where that led me, personally, was to a crack pipe. And I am forever grateful to God that I was on that crack, because it made me completely broken so that I could examine my life.”
KW: And what did you come to realize after bottoming out?
AS: “Today, what I know is that we are responsible for these young people. And if there’s a disconnect, it’s our fault, because we stopped talking to them honestly. And when we didn’t understand what they were saying to us, we started to point our fingers at them. We forgot that they were our children and that’s because the disconnect exists. The confusion that we see in our children is the result of lies that couldn’t hold up. If we had spoken honestly and logically, our children would hear us, understand us, and not run from us. I thank you for that question because I rarely have an opportunity to speak about what we are responsible for. These young people are called so many name, and vilified, as my son was. To me, every generation is responsible for the next.”
KW: Do you have any message for Tupac’s fans?
AS: “I would like to ask young people to remember what I just said. For you will also be responsible for the next generation. You don’t want to end up 56 year’s old and feel in your heart that you didn’t do all that you could do.”