Afeni Shakur Davis, former Black Panther, political activist and the mother of rap legend Tupac Shakur, died Monday at a hospital near her home in Sausalito, California. She was 69.
The Marin County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Shakur’s death on Twitter. Deputies responded to a report of a possible cardiac arrest at Shakur’s home at 9:34 p.m. Monday; less than an hour later, Shakur died at the hospital. “Sheriff’s Coroners [sic] Office will lead investigation to determine exact cause & manner of Afeni Shakur’s death,” the sheriff’s department tweeted.
Born Alice Williams in 1947, Shakur was a member of the Black Panthers Party along with Tupac’s father Billy Garland, becoming a respected and indispensable figure in the party – in interviews, she revealed she specialized in raising bail money for jailed Panthers – while operating alongside Geronimo Pratt, who would later be named Tupac’s godfather.
In 1969, Shakur and 20 other members of the party were jailed while facing trial on bombing charges in New York; Shakur was pregnant with Tupac at the time. She and the other members of the Panther 21 group were eventually acquitted after an eight-month trial and released from prison in May 1971. The following month, she gave birth to Tupac in Harlem, New York on June 16th, 1971.
Afeni Shakur, who overcame being “poor single mother on welfare” as described in her son’s 1995 single “Dear Mama,” was a constant inspiration in Tupac’s music, as the late rapper dedicated many of his songs to the woman who tempered his artistic ability and revolutionary spirit. “Ain’t a woman alive that could take my mother’s place,” he said on “Dear Mama,” a tribute to Afeni that was later added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
A year after “Dear Mama” was released, Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas on September 7th, 1996; a week later, he died of his wounds at a hospital with Afeni at his side.
One year after Tupac’s death, Afeni Shakur created the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which provides art programs to students. Shakur also oversaw her son’s estate, including his voluminous posthumous releases. In 1999, she and Voletta Wallace, the mother of the Notorious B.I.G., appeared together at the MTV Music Awards to call for unity in the hip-hop community.