Tupac: A Malcolm X Turned Into a Malcolm Little
OAKLAND, CA. -- The nation of Black lost a potentially mighty spokesman for mental liberation when the artist known as Tupac Shakur died last Friday.Tupac wasn't your everyday rapper -- he was also a movie star and a tragic bad boy figure. The kind that little girls fall in love with and dream of saving from the streets and an early death. But Tupac didn't get the chance to transform a destructive mentality into a positive one. The decadent nature of American popular culture took an already-formed Malcolm X and turned him into a Malcolm Little. Born a revolutionary of a revolutionary, he died a fake gangsta born of a dope fiend.In the 70s, when Tupac was born, O.J. Simpson was still a football hero. He represented the respectful African American who could live next door to white America, even play on its golf courses. The Negro. But there was another type of Afrikan that existed when the everyday O.J.s were becoming police officers and civil servants -- the rebellious ones. The Black People. The Black Woman and Man.Afeni Shakur, Tupac's mother, was a Black Panther wrongfully accused in a robbery. As part of the infamous Panther 21, she became a political prisoner with Tupac in her womb. Three months after her release, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, the famous Captain of the L.A. Panthers and a political prisoner himself, gave a warrior's name to Afeni's little boy with the big eyes and thick eyebrows that a nation of girls would swoon over.According to a pastor in Harlem who knew him as a youngsta, when Tupac was ten he was asked what he wanted to be. His reply: "A revolutionary." Go listen to Tupac's first album and you will be reminded of the more conscious Hip Hop music that made Public Enemy popular. But Tupac hit the scene at a time when much of Hip Hop was leaning towards the Pulp Fiction realism that spoke of drive-bys and dope deals. So Tupac did that too.Eventually Afeni Shakur, David Hilliard and many other Panthers, including Party founder Huey Newton, succumbed to crack addiction. The movie Panther suggested what many in the communities that gave birth to these leaders have long believed: that the CIA introduced cheap, addictive drugs into the Black community as part of their famous COINTELPRO program. Recent San Jose Mercury News stories documenting connections between crack cocaine distributed in Los Angeles, the CIA, and the Contras in Nicaragua confirm that belief.What happened to the community in the absence of the Black Panther Party is what America now sees in the inner city. The group with latest critique of the civil rights movement and of American imperialism was neutralized, and some Negroes started thinking the war was against those crazy Afrikans with the guns. Black Power became Black Politics through the Democratic Party.The vibe that controls the music now is sex and violence, death at an early age, and greed. My generation has been made into the image of the powers that the Panthers fought. Real Gangstas conspire to steal continents. Mini-wannabe gangstas sell dope to their own people, for the CIA, then rap about it for Time Warner.In a motorcade of "his boys," his "family," "killers and soldiers," Tupac took four in the chest and nobody so much as got the license plate number or chased the killers. At a time when Black People cannot or will not organize to protect our churches, how could we protect the potential spokesman for a revolutionary generation born into a counter-revolutionary reality?Tupac could have provided the Nation of Black people with the most complete explanation of our problems that anyone in the mass media has ever been able to make. He could have told the world the truth about his mother's addiction and the real causes behind it. He could have changed his lifestyle and become like his godfather Geronimo Pratt, the revolutionary. Instead we will remember him by playing his old albums and renting the two completed films he has in the can. Like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Jimi Hendrix, Tupac will sell from the grave.The Black and Brown babies born to the generation that "won" the civil rights fight in the 70's had as much potential as any generation of young Afrikans ever did. We were born the most free. What happened to us happened to Tupac.