Media Review | Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur

Dear Mama, Image Courtesy of FX Networks

It has been nearly 27 years since Tupac Shakur (1971–1996) was murdered.

Culture Honey has covered Tupac’s lasting genius in multiple ways. From our exclusive coverage of his legendary last show at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip before his untimely death to his influence in fashion and up to his lasting influence today in the areas of creativity and justice as exemplified by the recent pop-up exhibit in Los Angeles “Wake Me When I’m Free“.

We find ourselves in an era dominated by celebrities and influencers, individuals who gain recognition for their exceptional skills, crafts, or the captivating content they create, amassing a large following on social media.

However, Tupac stood apart from the rest. Not only did he possess incredible artistic and intellectual talent, but he also displayed a remarkable vulnerability that revealed his true character. This authenticity made him relatable, a rare quality among most celebrities.

What set Tupac apart was his dedication to inspiring and caring for his community.

Tupac went beyond the confines of his artistry to uplift and empower those around him. A significant influence in shaping Tupac’s passion for his community was his fearless mother, Afeni Shakur, whose involvement with the Black Panthers instilled in him a profound perspective on the world. This perspective permeated all aspects of his life, including his music and acting endeavors, which became platforms for him to express his beliefs and advocate for change.

Tupac’s impact and influence are unparalleled, solidifying his status as an iconic figure of the past two decades. His authenticity shone through, regardless of whether the cameras were rolling or not. This authenticity stemmed from the moral codes and principles instilled in him during his upbringing, shaping his unique outlook on the world. Tupac’s unwavering commitment to staying true to himself and his community is what set him apart and continues to resonate with people today. This influence was honored just this year with a posthumous star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame which was accepted on his behalf by his sister Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur and he was the first solo hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.

Director Allen Hughes effectively sheds light on pivotal aspects that influenced Tupac’s life, particularly his mother’s involvement with the Black Panther movement.

Tupac’s mom, Afeni Shakur, was a strong-willed and fearless woman and she instilled these same qualities in Tupac during his formative years. Growing up in a society that offered few examples to inspire confidence for young Black men in the 70s/80s and without a consistent father figure, finding self-assurance was a formidable challenge. Nevertheless, Afeni as a single mother instilled these core qualities in Tupac, empowering him to find his own voice and establish his identity from an early age.

Tupac’s exposure to the Black Panther party through his mother’s involvement allowed him to attend meetings, marches, and interact with the party’s leaders at the time. This firsthand experience provided him with a deep understanding of the importance of community-building and protection. As Tupac matured, his passion for helping those in need, particularly within the Black community, intensified.

An example of this was the incident in which Tupac shot two off-duty police officers who were assaulting a Black driver in Atlanta. Driven by a sense of militancy in safeguarding his own people, Tupac intervened when he witnessed the officers attacking the driver. In response to the officers’ aggressive actions, including one drawing their weapon and smashing Tupac’s car window, Tupac defended himself by firing back. This act of self-defense stemmed from Tupac’s firsthand experiences with police brutality and his commitment to protecting his community, mirroring the ideologies established by the Black Panther party.

The Black Panther party’s primary purpose was to shield Black neighborhoods and individuals from police brutality, a cause that Tupac embraced wholeheartedly.

The aforementioned incident exemplifies how Tupac’s values and morals were shaped by those championed by the Black Panthers. He saw a member of his community under threat and felt compelled to intervene, defending his own people and responding to the officers’ aggression. Through Hughes’ portrayal, it becomes evident that Tupac’s upbringing and exposure to the Black Panther movement significantly contributed to his commitment to advocating for his community’s well-being and challenging social injustices.

Dear Mama also sheds light on Tupac’s adolescence, highlighting his experience as a young high school student attending a performing arts academy.

Throughout his life, Tupac maintained an unwavering passion for the arts, as space where he could genuinely express his authentic self. Acting, in particular, ignited a fire within him, prompting him to enroll in drama classes where he honed his acting skills and simultaneously delved into the world of poetry writing.

The discovery of writing proved to be transformative for Tupac. Writing gave him the outlet to express from a fresh perspective. Once he realized the power of writing, Tupac immersed himself in the craft, dedicating his time to continuous writing and expanding his knowledge through avid reading. This pursuit enabled him to refine his skills and broaden his artistic voice.

As his love for writing flourished, Tupac sought ways to merge it with his passion for music. He embarked on a journey to blend the two art forms, resulting in his ability to craft powerful and poignant musical compositions. This integration of writing and music became a pivotal aspect of Tupac’s artistic expression and contributed to the depth and impact of his work.

Dear Mama is a must-watch docu-series for both fans and non-fans of Tupac alike.

It delves beyond the familiar narratives of Tupac’s life as a rapper, providing a deeper understanding of the influences that shaped his persona and showcasing the development of his immense talent.

The series goes beyond the surface, exploring the factors that influenced Tupac’s personality and shedding light on the pivotal role his mother played in shaping him into the powerful individual he became. It offers insights into Tupac’s family dynamics and the profound impact his mother had on his life and career. Even if you’re not a dedicated fan of Tupac, Dear Mama is an excellent documentary offering a greater understanding of his life and legacy. It provides a glimpse into the personal aspects of his journey and the tragic loss of a remarkable individual who left an indelible mark on the world.