The fighter in Tupac seemed to be an inherited trait as both his parents were Black Panthers. He was also national chairman of the New Afrikan Panthers, a young adult branch of the New Afrikan People’s Organization. In a 1989 interview, Tupac explained the goal of the movement, as well as his role as chairman. The New Afrikan Panthers sought to educate black youth between the ages of 13 and 25 on their history as a means of self-defense against the oppressor. As chairman, his job was to promote and implement the program in other cities. Throughout the interview, Tupac spoke about the attack on black leaders and the plague of ignorance over African Americans by the government. In Tupac’s words, black people must rise and unite in order to fight off the oppressor. Striving to not fall into the system, Tupac ultimately failed. However, his failure would lead to growth that was beneficial for him.
In 1995, Tupac was sentenced to a year and a half to four and a half years in jail for sexually harassing a fan. Around the time of his arrest, Tupac’s third album, “Me Against the World,” was released. The album focused on the plight of black youth with topics such as incarceration, death, and police harassment. While in jail, an interview was conducted that depicted Tupac in a totally different head space than before his arrest. He gained a new perspective on life and constantly preached about the negativity attributed to jail life. Tupac spoke directly to the youth while a picture of Yummy Sandifer, a notable 11-year-old gang member, hung in the background.
With gangs being heavy in the ’90s, Tupac promoted the need for gangs to become self-productive. He believed that gangs could regulate their communities and keep the infiltration of others out. A cycle had to be broken in order for the violence to stop, though he predicted that it would not. In his words, these gangs learn from what they see others do, which is from the government and police, which use force and violence to attain what they want. During these days, Tupac was starting to redirect his energy towards a more positive lifestyle that would exemplify the change he wanted to see.
After his release from prison, an interview with Sanyika Shakur emerged that detailed Tupac’s plans for uplifting the black community. He wanted to create summer leagues for girls and boys that would be backed by rappers. While uncles and fathers would act as security, churches would provide meals. Plans were also intact to help clean up the streets of drug dealers. Between the times of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., the streets would be free of dealers and clear for young children to roam. The hours after 11 p.m. were up for the taking; however, Shakur wanted the money made from these deeds to be put back into the community. Ultimately, these plans would redirect the image of the black community and keep the youth productive and off the streets. Although his plans did not come into fruition, there is still hope for others to carry on his mission of positivity.
Tupac was a man of many words, much determination, and multiple ideals that could have definitely helped the black community. His music can only do so much to paint the picture of the black struggle, but action leads to progress. Not much of a change has occurred and the same problems in the black community still persist. More and more black men are being put in jail, police brutality has gotten worse, and the black neighborhoods have nothing positive for youth to turn to. With Tupac’s influence still a lingering force, hopefully the change that he and many others want to see can happen.
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RBG| Tupac Shakur Speaks – National Chairman for the New Afrikan Panther Party (1989) pt 1 & 2