November 2003
TUPAC: RESURRECTION: An Interview with Afeni Shukur

Interviewed by Damien Smith

An Interview with Afeni Shakur

An Interview with Afeni Shakur
By Damien Smith

While sitting in a hotel room waiting to interview Afeni Shakur for, I started to think about how much she has been through in her life. Afeni was a member of The Black Panther Party, and a defendant on trail with 20 other co-defendants on trumped up charges. She also raised one of the most influential artists of my generation, Tupac Shakur. Since her son was assassinated, there have been plenty of stories and unauthorized accounts on the life of her son. In order to tell it right, Afeni gathered her memories of her son through footage that no one has seen, and along with MTV films has executive produced the documentary “Tupac: Resurrection”. In a brief interview, I spoke to her about her background and her memories of her son, Tupac.

BF: If Tupac were not your son, would you consider him a revolutionary?

AS: In 1969 it was my time at bat. From 1971-1996 it was Tupac's time at bat. There was no revolution here. Never call my son something out of context. In 1969 the whole country was involved in change. For me, revolution is around young people with no skills, college education, and coming from everywhere having an economic impact on an entire system which no one notices. The biggest revolution, hip-hop has an economic base. My son did all kinds of media. He showed us that a hip-hop artist can stay focused on
being real. Revolution is Tupac showing a young artist that he can scribble in a notebook and it’s worth a lot. In your generation you can't understand the impact of it because you live in it. It's huge.

BF: In terms of raising Tupac into the man he became, what things do you look back on that he picked up on that stuck with him to the end?

AS: Integrity, He was raised with it and he never lost it. I have never one day been ashamed of my son. Even when he was not right, that's ok. As a mom that's what I want...integrity.

BF: When you heard he was arrested for jaywalking, as a mother how did it affect you?

AS: It's not the question, because when I heard he was arrested for jaywalking I was in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to do 90 meetings in 90 days and I had not done them. I wanted to leave the program and go to my son, but I was told to sit there. As a mother I was taking responsibility for the damage I had done in my life and my son’s life. When he was still
trying to do what was right, building his career, his eyes were still on the goal. When it happened I was trying to pick myself up. In reality I couldn't react as a mother, but as a recovering addict.

BF: Do you think outside forces played a role in getting Tupac convicted of sexual assault?

AS: Tupac was born his mother's son, so let me say to you that there was never a day Tupac did not know he was my child. Did he get a fair trial? Well, he was never going to get a fair trial, but then again he should have never been in that situation. You have to know from our history that we are not able to point fingers. It doesn't matter what anybody else does, we have to
take responsibility. Tupac was born 1 month and 3 days after his mother was released from jail. Why wouldn't Tupac know that in NYC the police don't like him? So, I can't take refuge in it. If other people don't know it, if it's a new thing for them, I say hey, look, we have always been who we are.
We expect it from the police. But even expecting it, so what? I wake up every day and think everything sure is awful, but then I ask the Lord what I can do to make it better. That's what I want for my son, daughter, and grandchildren. Everything else is whining. I already spent my life saying how bad things are. If the Black Panther Party didn't show people it’s bad,
yes, it's gotten worse. I don't like to spend a lot of time on that. I work everyday to make a difference. So, when you ask me things I get caught up in it because I'm not an actor, or entertainer. I'm Tupac’s mom and I made this movie for my son, about my son. That's the biggest deal for me. If you want to talk about my opinion, you aren't going to understand them. Look at me. I am 56 years old. When I was 24-25 I had already been in jail and out, defended myself and then I did some more horrible things. I am not really interested in spending the rest of my days harping on it. Although you look at it and say I survived, great. No, it's not. I should have done the right thing in the beginning and I wouldn't have to go through all of
it. I don't feel bad about it, but the truth is the truth. It's ok to tell the truth. Tupac’s sister was married in August. We are blessed with a wonderful, spiritual wedding. The entire extended family was there. She has a wonderful husband, a great human being. I like him a lot. Grandchildren, nieces, nephews. they are all wonderful. We are truly blessed.

BF: Were Tupac alive is there anything else you would have included?

AS: No such thing! The film is complete as it needs to be. Do consider that we are talking about a man who lived 25 years. In 25 years he left you enough to be able to talk to you for two hours. Trust me, it's good!

BF: Do you think Tupac was through with thug life and trying to take what the Black Panther Party started?

AS: No, baby, he wasn't and he would cuss you out if he heard you. You have to know Tupac. He wasn't trying to be a Panther. Tupac watched his mother get dogged by the Panthers. Are you going to talk about that ever or are you going to pretend the Panthers were these glorified people? Do you understand what it meant that I had to defend myself? What does it mean if I am sitting amongst 11, 21 black men? Why am I defending myself?

The interview lasted 15 minutes, but it went so fast. It was a great honor to have been able to sit down with Afeni Shakur. I hope Afeni does not think by asking her questions it is our views about the topic. She is a very intelligent, passionate, and an all around great woman that has accomplished great things for black people in her lifetime.