Former Black Panthers Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, Sekou Odinga and Bilal Sunni-Ali jointly recollect the life, times and legacy of the late revolutionary matriarch Afeni Shakur.
Afeni’s passing in the year that marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party founded in Oakland California, is a significant socio-political marker in the marginalization of Black Radicalism in America. Her passing as a universally recognized Hip-Hop Madonna and mother of the iconic Black Rapper Tupac Shakur and daughter Setchawa, practically obscures the formative years of her life as a Black girl from the rural South, transfigured in the Southeast Bronx into a Black teenage Fem Fatale and “Deb” in the Bronx Street set, Young Disciples/Disciples Sportsmen, as well as her transition from the harsh streets of the Southeast Bronx to the radical Black Nationalism of the Black Panther Party and Black Radicalism of the sixties.
Like a silent movie reel, Afeni’s passing means that the Black Panthers of Afeni Shakur’s generation of Black Radicals, Revolutionaries, and activists are etched in Time by a media that portrays them as – “Forever Young” – while the conditions that nurtured their radicalism, and inspired the Freedom Dreams of Afeni’s generation, are reduced to hashtag militancy and posture politics. We should not forget that she was a revolutionary leader and spokes person for the Black Panther Party. Afeni’s real historical legacy, and ultimately to celebrate her Life depends on how we the living perceived that life.
The name Shakur further identifies her as at one with the legacy of the revolutionary family of the Shakur, Aba, Lumumba, Zaid, Mutulu, Assata, and their extended family of revolutionaries.
Because Afeni was one of us, one Verse in our generational bio-story who grew to adulthood during the “Cold War” of White America’s Empire, and White Supremacy’s Bloody domestic War on us, we not only mourn her passing but the marginalization of her “becoming” who she was. Across America, in every major Urban enclave populated by the descendants of Chattel Slaves, Freedmen and Women, a generation that would embrace Black Power, Black Self-determination, Black Pride that would typify the Civil and Human Rights struggles of the sixties and seventies came of age. Now Afeni’s generation time has passed, but not the legacy of their struggles, the radical legacy of the Afeni Shakur’s, Abdul Majid’s, Albert Nuh Washington’s, Zaid Shakur’s, are still accessible as long as their lives are not forgotten, or what made them who they became overlooked and ignored.
We Love you Dear Sister Afeni. Although you are gone you will never be forgotten. Long live the revolutionary spirit of Afeni Shakur!
Sekou Odinga is a former member of the Black Panther Party and a political prisoner who served 33 years in prison before being released in 2014.
Dhoruba Bin-Wahad is a former member of the Black Panther Party and was also a part of the New York 21. He later served an additional 19 years in a separate case before being acquitted due to the use of COINTELPRO. Dhoruba won lawsuits against both the FBI and NYPD for their use of COINTELPRO. His case against the FBI led to a massive release of COINTELPRO documents.
Bilal Sunni-Ali is a former member of the Black Panther Party and musician. He was a member of Gil Scott Heron’s ensemble “Midnight Band” and is a celebrated saxophonist, composer and educator.