Feedback
Pop Culture

Afeni Shakur Davis, Activist and Mother of Tupac, Dies at 69

Activist Afeni Shakur Davis, the mother of late rap artist Tupac Shakur, died Monday, officials said. She was 69.

Image: Afeni Shakur
Afeni Shakur at the premiere of "Tupac Resurrection" in Hollywood, California in November 2011. Tim Goodwin / Star Max via AP Images

Davis died in a hospital Monday night after deputies responded to a report of possible cardiac arrest at her Sausalito, California, home at 9:30 p.m., the Marin County Sheriff's Office said. The coroners office will lead the investigation into the cause of her death.

Davis was born Alice Faye Williams in Lumberton, North Carolina, according to a biography of her written by actress Jasmine Guy. She and Tupac's father, Billy Garland, were both active in the Black Panthers: In 1969, she and 20 other members of the party were arrested on charges of conspiring to bomb police stations and department stores in New York City. Though the group was eventually acquitted, Davis served 11 months in prison, then gave birth to Tupac in 1971.

Davis struggled with drugs and homelessness in New York City in the 1980s, later moving to Baltimore and then California. By 1990, her life had become so derailed by cocaine use that when someone told her her son was becoming a hip-hop icon, she said she hadn't even noticed.

"I was in the heyday of using," she told the Associated Press in 2005. "Someone told me that Tupac was on The Arsenio Hall Show, and I thought they were lying."

Davis got clean the following year after Tupac confronted her.

Image: Rap musician Tupac Shakur
Rap musician Tupac Shakur shown in this 1993 file photo. Shakur died on Sept. 13, 1996, the victim of a drive-by shooting. AP, file

"He asked me if I could handle it, and I said yeah because I'd been dipping and dabbing all my life," she told the AP. "What pissed him off is that I lied to him."

Even in her drug haze in the mid-1980s, Davis realized Tupac needed structure to avoid life on the streets. So she enrolled him in the 127th Street Ensemble, a Harlem theater group.

"Arts can save children, no matter what's going on in their homes," she told the AP. "I wasn't available to do the right things for my son. If not for the arts, my child would've been lost."

She took that lesson and later used it to help others. A year after Tupac's death, she founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, a charitable foundation that provided art programs to students.

Her influence on Tupac appeared in songs such as his 1995 Billboard hit "Dear Mama," a tribute that describes his love and respect for his mother, despite his impoverished childhood and her addiction to crack cocaine.

Tupac was shot multiple times while leaving a boxing match in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996, and died six days later at age 25. His killing has never been solved.

In addition to best-selling albums such as "All Eyez on Me," Tupac had acting roles in the film "Poetic Justice" and on TV shows, including "A Different World."

Davis is survived by her daughter, Sekyiwa Shakur.