Passing of Giants of the Human Spirit: Ten Days When Death Came Calling, Part Six
May 25, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry
Remembering Afeni Shakur – Part C
In the late 1970s, I remember Afeni Shakur and I attending meetings, rallies, and demonstrations mostly related to police or criminal justice issues. However, in 1979-1981, when the 28 children in Atlanta, Georgia were being murdered, Assemblyman Charles Barron, who was the Black United Front’s Harlem Chapter Chairperson at the time, invited the mothers of the murdered children to Harlem and to our church.
Then, around 1982, Afeni and I established a strong enough friendship that she decided to join our church. Along with her sister, Gloria, she brought her two children, Sekiywa and Tupac, who later became a Superstar/performing artist. I remember when I asked Tupac what he wanted to be when he grew up. He replied, “I want to be a Revolutionary.” It is a piece of interesting information as is the custom in our church. When a person joins, I assign a Big Brother or a Big Sister, a person who has been in the church for a long time and who is conversant with the church’s history, doctrine, etc. I assigned Min. Peggy Washington, who sang at Truly Washington’ funeral, to be Afeni’s big sister.
In time, Afeni moved away with the family. We touched base from a distance. As Tupac gained fame, she would call me whenever he was in NYC and asked if I would go by to see him, which I did. He was always respectful and generous with his time.
When he was shot five times in New York, he sent for me. I visited him at Bellevue Hospital. He appeared semi-conscious – almost in a coma. He barely moved except for his eyes. I said, ‘I’ve come to pray for you, son, and God is gonna heal you and put you on your feet. Then, we are going to have a good father-son talk.”
We all know the story of Tupac’s departure from the hospital on the same day. In fact, Bellevue Hospital is about 30 minutes from church in downtown Brooklyn. After I prayed for him, by the time I reached the church, Deacon Leroy Applin, Sr., met me at the door. He inquired with alarm across his face. He asked, “Have you heard about Tupac?”
I said, “No, I just left him. What happened?”
He said, “A report just came on. Tupac left the hospital.”
It was only a couple of years layer that l I learned what had happened. Jamaal Joseph, a former Black Panther, told me that when Tupac became conscious or gained enough consciousness to know where he was, he put out a call for them to come to the hospital and get him. He feared that those who had shot him would be coming back, and he had no protection. The brothers arrived and took Tupac away to a safe place.
During Tupac’s incarceration, we really connected as I would visit him at least once a week, and sometimes, more. As a result, Afeni and I were in constant communication. When Tupac was killed in California, our relationship resurfaced as pastor-parishioner.
I was a constant visitor of her home in Atlanta. It was the home that Tupac had purchased for her in a deal with Suge Knight. In fact, I used to conduct monthly religious study groups in her home. We would gather members of the Shakur family and a few members of our church who had relocated for a study and discussion. The Bible was used as our point of departure. From there, we would arrange far afield, discussing everything from politics to the movements, especially liberation/revolutionary; leadership; arts; world events; movies; etc.
Tupac had told me during his incarceration that he wanted me to perform the wedding which he was planning with Jada Pinkett (currently the wife of Will Smith). They had known each other since the time he spent in Baltimore, Maryland. Strangely, it wasn’t Tupac, but I married his sister in the sprawling, picturesque, and idyllic surroundings on the grounds of the Shakur residence. It was at her home in Atlanta that I married Sekiywa and Gregory. It was a beautiful wedding. It was a reunion of old family and friends. Some of the Panthers were present. They were now bald and grey-haired.
In addition, Afeni had purchased a house and a farm in Lumberton near Fayetteville, North Carolina, which was where the family’s roots sank deep. She wanted to grow organic food. For a time, she appeared to be happily adjusted to her new life. By the way, it was at this farm that Tupac’s ashes came to rest.
Afeni always prepared a special room for me in the farmhouse. There, surrounded by family and old friends, she reconnected to the family’s deep religious faith. It was not that she had departed from God. She always remained God-conscious, even in her wayward years. But, back home, worshipping in the church of her youth, her faith was revitalized.
Assemblyman Charles Barron had a special relationship with Afeni and the family. He related this story in the May 5-11, 2016 edition of the Amsterdam News, “I thank God for allowing our paths to cross decades ago. I will never forget the times I had dinner with you, Tupac and Sekyiwa. Before we ate, you would bless the food and sing a beautiful song, with such a radiant smile, you could light up the universe. I forget the name of the artist, but I will always remember the words: ‘Can you catch the wind, can you make the world spin, can you pull the sun down? Can you make man from the ground? Oh, no! But I know who can! God Can!'”
I looked forward to those visits to the farm: walking and talking among the grass, trees, fresh air; the smell and feel of dirt; and, farming and growing stuff. It was rejuvenating and revitalizing. Then, in the evening, amid the quiet stillness with the perpetual sounds of creatures of the night, roaming to and fro, we had long talks of bygone days.
… to be continued.