NEW YORK — Afeni Shakur, mother of slain icon Tupac Shakur, has spent the last several years keeping her son's name alive. And although the trove of unreleased music from the rapper seems to be reaching its end — Afeni said the last album of unreleased material will come out next year — she's renovating the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation's Peace Memorial Garden and Visitors Center in Stone Mountain, Georgia, in the hope of establishing a more lasting memorial.
Though Afeni has been remembering her son with annual concerts around his June 16 birthday, she and her partners in the foundation felt that more could be done.
"When Tupac died, the first year and afterward, we thought the way to celebrate him was to have concerts and events every June in Georgia," Ms. Shakur explained. "And after we spent so much money and only affected the people right there, we decided we'd build a foundation and work with young people on an ongoing basis."
Each summer, the foundation holds a performing-arts camp for children suffering from troubled home lives. The camp, which is set on nine recently renovated acres of countryside in Stone Mountain, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta where Afeni resides), will be formally reopened on June 10. Afeni, a former Black Panther and a recovered drug addict, referenced her own tumultuous past when describing the foundation's main goal.
"When Tupac was 13 and I was homeless," she said, "Tupac was in the 127th Street Ensemble [theater group] right here in New York. Those people, I believe, saved his life. So what we try to do is be that for the next generation of young people."
Next year, Afeni said she intends to place a life-size sculpture of Tupac at the garden's entrance.
Meanwhile, a video with a stark message has been released for "Ghetto Gospel," the recent single from Tupac's posthumous LP Loyal to the Game (see "Eminem 'Went Crazy' With Tupac's A Cappellas For Loyal To The Game"). The clip, directed by Nzingha Stewart, is about a young man who dies, while his mother mourns the loss and recognizes that the destructive pattern continues. The video reflects Afeni's own concerns.
"This year, Tupac would've been 34 years old," she said. "He died when he'd just made 25. I perceive a crisis in young people and I want to share my concern. The most important thing for young people is to stay alive."
Afeni is also working on an as-of-yet-untitled film detailing Tupac's early life, as well as a traveling Broadway play. Author Quentin Skinner has also written a biography of the rapper, which will be published later this year.
"[Loyal to the Game] will have no more singles," Afeni said. "We'll do a spoken-word album this year, and next year we'll do the final unreleased song album for Tupac.
"And then we're going to beg you all to come and see us at the [Peace Memorial Garden and Visiting] Center."