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My mother was a Black Panther and she was really involved in the movement.
Just black people bettering themselves and things like that. She was in a high position in the party which was unheard of because there was sexism, even in the Panthers. All my roots to the struggle are real deep. My stepfather at the time, Mutulu Shakur, he was also a well-known revolutionary. And then my godfather, Geronimo Pratt, he had a top official rank position with the Panthers on the West Coast.
There's racism, so when the Panthers hit, the government panicked and they felt like the Panthers were detrimental to American society. So they raided every Panthers' house, especially the ones who they felt like, could do damage as an orator. My mother was seven months pregnant, they put a match to the door and said "Fire, Fire!" And you know it's like five in the morning so my mother opened the door and they just burst in, put a shotgun to her pregnant belly and put a gun to her head and said, "Don't move, bah, bah, bah, you're under arrest." They treated them like less than humans.
My mother was pregnant with me while she was in prison. She was her own attorney. Never been to law school. She was facing three-hundred-some odd years. One black woman, pregnant, beat the case. That just goes to show you the strength of a black woman and the strength of the oppressed.
A month after she got outta prison she gave birth to me. So I was cultivated in prison, my embryo was in prison.
When I was a baby I remember one moment of calm peace, then three minutes after that it was on. I was named after this Inca Chief from South America whose name was Tupac Amaru. I think the tribal breakdown means "intelligent warrior." He's a deep dude. If I go to South America they gonna love me, I'm telling you. They know Tupac.
My mom is the bomb.
First I rebelled against her because she was in the movement and we never spent time together because she was always speaking and going to colleges and everything. I always used to feel that she cared about "the" people more than "her" people. And then, after that was over, it was more time spent with me and we were both just like, "You're my mother?" And she's like, "You're my son." So then she was really close with me and really strict almost.
She taught me how to be community orientated. And I think my mother taught me how to understand women a lot more than my peers can. I'm not uncomfortable around strong women. My sister is the bomb too. She's my biggest critic, she's real smart, funny as all hell.
I think that my mother, like Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Harriet Tubman, they felt like they were laying tracks for the generation to come. Somebody has to break out and risk losing everything and being poor and getting beat down; somebody sacrifices.
But poverty, it's no joke. If there was no money and everything depended on your moral standards and the way you treated people, we'd be millionaires, we'd be rich. But since it's not like that, we're stone broke. And that's the only thing I'm bitter about is, growing up poor because I missed out on a lot of things. I can't always have what I want or even things that I think I need. I feel that my mother made a lot of decisions in her life -- she could have chose to go to college and been well off. But she chose to fight and make things better.
My mother, she's totally brilliant. Totally understanding and caring. And she's human -- I mean, she'll be wrong a lot but we can talk about it.
My mother taught me three things: respect, knowledge, search for knowledge. It's an eternal journey.
She always tells me that the payoff to her is that me and my sister grew up good and we have good minds -- but we just didn't have money.
Poverty. If I hated anything, it'd be that.
My father was a Panther.
I never knew where my father was or who my father was for sure. The times that I came up, it was the late sixties. They were still having free love, they was just hittin' what they was hittin'. My mother wasn't married, and she got pregnant and had me, and I didn't have a father.
My stepfather was a gangsta. A straight-up street hustler. He loved the fact that the Panthers would go to jail and wouldn't snitch. He didn't even care my moms had a kid. He was like, "Oh, that's my son." Took care of me, gave me money, but he was like a criminal too. He was a drug dealer out there doing his thing -- he only came, brought me money, and then left.
I hate saying this cuz white people love hearing black people talking about this. But I know for a fact that had I had a father, I'd have some discipline. I'd have more confidence.
Your mother cannot calm you down the way a man can. Your mother can't reassure you the way a man can. My mother couldn't show me where my manhood was. You need a man to teach you how to be a man.
When I was young I was quiet, withdrawn. I read a lot, wrote poetry, kept a diary. I watched TV all day. I stayed in front of the television.
It was when I was in front of the TV by myself, being alone in the house by myself, having to cook dinner by myself, eat by myself. Just being by myself and looking at TV, at families and all these people out there in this pretend world. I knew I could be part of it if I pretended too, So early on I just watched and emulated...and I just thirsted for that. I thought if I could be and act like those characters, act like those people, I could have some of their joy. If I could act like I had a big family I wouldn't feel as lonely.
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