Northern California's Marin County police department reported early this morning that Afeni Shakur, Black Panther and mother of rapper Tupac Shakur, passed away after a cardiac arrest last night at her home in Salsalito, California. Shakur was 69 years old.
Afeni Shakur, born in North Carolina in 1947 as Alice Faye Williams, may be best known to rap fans the subject of her son's 1995 hit single "Dear Mama" and a fierce protector of his legacy and music after he was killed in 1996, but Shakur's history of service began in the early 1960s, when she joined the Black Panther Party and began writing for the group's newsletter The Panther Post.
In 1969, Shakur was one of 21 Panthers arrested on accusations they'd planned coordinated dynamite bombings of various New York City police stations. The case went to trial in 1971, and a pregnant Shakur, lacking support from the national Panther Party, waived legal counsel and successfully defended herself, resulting in her acquittal on a staggering 156 criminal charges. Tupac was born later that year.
More recently Shakur fought with Death Row Records for control over a sizable vault of unreleased Tupac material. She oversaw and executive produced her son's posthumous album releases, managing the music and producing the Academy Award nominated documentary Tupac: Resurrection through Amaru Entertainment, and created the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which encouraged youth interest in the arts from its opening in 1997 to closure in 2014.
Shakur also co-produced the 2014 Tupac Broadway musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, which starred Saul Williams, and was also set to executive produce the forthcoming biopic All Eyez on Me, where popular Walking Dead actress Danai Gurira recently signed on to play her.