May 4, 2016

Afeni Shakur, You Are Appreciated.

​by Mike Orie of

"There's no way I can pay you back, but my plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated." These are the words that many young boys find themselves uttering in silence often alone. They are the moments that you may never hear about as you scream one too many reminders of dirty dishes in the sink. But it’s these late nights of stomach’s rumbling, anxiety, depression, the ghetto streets of Oakland, Chicago, New Orleans or Brooklyn where a mother’s comfort heals all. Even the moment’s of a young boy slamming the door profusely after an argument of leftover Hamburger Helper remains, remaining in the sink. Lifeless, yet full of life, the dissolved molecules and grease stains have cemented a permanent reminder that dishwashing liquid can never fully resolve. They can never dissolve particles that weren’t meant to be broken.

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Regardless of whether you were raised in a single-family household, without either parents or simply a young Black boy with goals being raised in the ghetto. It doesn’t matter, because deep down inside, a mother’s innate feeling is to nurture. Truthfully, many mothers have one single wish. A wish to see that their offspring grows up and becomes successful. Mass incarceration, purposefully designed poor education systems and systematic oppression often prevent this from happening for many of our young Black and Brown brothers. But despite the odds, despite the system set up for us to fail, a mother can only hope and pray for the best.

Tupac Shakur was a rare gem. There was something about him, and his mother knew it. Ms. Shakur was released from jail exactly one month and three days before he was born. A huge sigh of relieve that her baby boy wouldn’t directly be born into the world that was so cruel to her. They say good things come in threes, and had there been just a 33-day difference in her release, his future might’ve been detained before it ever saw the light of day. She wasn't perfect. Neither was he, and nor am I. When it feels like the world is working against us on a daily basis, there's no telling what will or will not have some sort of effect on you. But just as there is bad in the world, there is just as better. Some of us, however, have to dig just a little bit deeper for hope.

Monday, May 2nd, Afeni Shakur passed away. She was rushed to a local California hospital after she suffered a possible heart attack. The woman with a heartbeat large enough to thud hip-hop’s pain, distress and hope all throughout the world on beats 2 and 4 no longer could. The 69-year old Afeni Shakur passed away around 10:30 p.m., barely six days before Mother’s Day. Despite how painful this may be, her beat still lives on forever in old record stores, music streaming services and illegally downloaded cd’s still making their rounds through barbershops.

Listening to Dear Mama yesterday morning all of a sudden felt a little different. “And even as a crack fiend mama. You always was a Black queen mama.” Because deep down inside, the world knew that she had birthed arguably the greatest hip-hop artist ever. But why do Black mothers never get the appreciation they deserve? At only 25, 2Pac taught us about racism, the ghetto, infidelity, faith, religion, and overcoming battles with enemies and how to maintain a sense of purpose. It’s how his legacy has remained in tact for almost nearly as long as he’s been gone, and rightfully so. But how come we don’t honor Black mothers in the same light for their contributions. How come their passing doesn’t allow us to feel the same pain Afeni Shakur felt when she made the tough decision to kick 2Pac out the house at age 17?

When I was young me and my mama had beef

Seventeen years old kicked out on the streets

Though back at the time, I never thought I'd see her face

Ain't a woman alive that could take my mama's place

I write this, because Black mothers never get the tributes they deserve. When working two jobs just to see a better day, only provides hope for your son a better place. All the hurting inside got to be a better way, when Trayvon Martin’s can’t see another day.

I began writing with the sole intention of paying tribute to Afeni Shakur. But you know her story: philanthropist, political activist, Black Panther, probably much better than I do. But our mind trains us to focus on the key player, often overlooking the coach. If I had just one day with her, I’d probably ask her a few questions. I’d ask her questions like, how did you find the strength to keep going when there wasn’t an ounce of hope in the world? How did Tupac have so many of the answers that we still haven’t acknowledged today? How did you find the time to find these answers, teach them to your son and still wake up remaining hopeful the next day, knowing that everything you taught your son yesterday, could be the reason he might never see tomorrow? But most importantly, I’d ask her, how come mothers never quite get the tribute’s they deserve? She might tear up at the gesture of gratitude, or she might simply do what society continuously tells Black mother’s to do, stay strong. And while it’s too late for me to pay her back, all I want is to show her that I understand. Afeni Shakur, you are appreciated.


Mike "Orie" Mosley is a freelance writer/photographer and cultural advocate from St. Louis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management from Columbia College Chicago and a Masters in Higher Education Administration from LSU. He is also the co-founder of music and culture website In his spare time, he's probably listening to hip hop & neo soul music, hitting up brunch or caught up in deep conversations about Black music. You can follow him on Twitter @mike_orie or on Instagram @mikeorie

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