Afeni Shakur delivered the good word to Sybrina Fulton—mother of slain teen Trayvon Martin—and other moms who've lost children to violence on Saturday (May 17), at the Trayvon Martin Foundation's Circle of Mothers retreat in Miami.
In her emotional keynote address, Shakur, who famously lost her son Tupac in 1996, pleaded with the audience to release anger and instead honor the deceased with acts of positivity and community uplifting.
“The problem with being angry is that once we become angry, where exactly can we go from there?" Shakur asks. "Because you’ve already reached your pinnacle, your next move has to be to hit somebody. What else can you do if you mad? We have to find another road, that’s what’s going to be different.”
Afeni Shakur added that she believes Tupac and Trayvon are together in heaven.
"I believe that from the time my son left, that angels came and took his soul, his spirit and flew him happily where God sits in court," she says. "Took him and gently laid him before the throne. That’s what I believe and that’s what I see. And I seen in these 17 years, I have seen God still using that precious angel. He will do that for all of us. He will do that for your child.”
VIBE spoke with Fulton earlier this month about Afeni Shakur's participation in the event and an open letter that was penned to the family following Trayvon's death.
"It was so heartfelt and meaningful that I said [to myself], if I ever did anything to try to help other mothers or other family members that I would make sure to reach out to her, and I did," Fulton says of the letter. "We reached out to her and she was just so gracious to come be our keynote speaker for our Saturday night empowerment dinner."
Listen to Afeni's complete speech below. Text from her open letter to Trayvon Martin's family, which she recited Saturday night, beneath. —John Kennedy
“My heart goes out to the mother and family of Trayvon Martin. I too am a mother who lost a child to gun violence. All violence is unacceptable. They should be allowed to grow up and allowed to make mistakes. There is no distinction in murder and violence, I can’t tell the difference between police killings, neighborhood watch killings and the killing of ourselves, I just don’t know the difference.
"To me, my child is dead. All the rest of that stuff is fried ice cream. In the wake of this tragedy we have to be careful not to let anger take root, grow and guide our decisions. All over the country people are angry and demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. We must recognize that anger only agitates and incites. It can not squelch or satisfy the hunger for justice. Trayvon’s life was taken far too soon. It is not Trayvon’s fault that he was murdered. The individual responsible for taking his precious life chose to put his finger on the trigger of a weapon and exert a small amount of pressure, rather than make a decision other than violence.
"All change begins with the choices we make. It is imperative that we as a community make better choices that benefit the whole, not just the individual parts. Justice will not come in the form of a mob; justice will be felt when every mother knows that her child is safe walking the streets of America. Justice in the Martin family is in the honest explanation of what happened to their beloved Trayvon. Real justice in the streets is changing our behavior and making better choices in our everyday lives.
"What’s behind us, beside us and in front of us is serious. We have to do more than commit to a rally or a one-time event. Young people are in danger every single day. Each day and night when they go to school or go to the store, even when they go down the street to a home in their neighborhood, they are in danger. We should not wait for another senseless killing to make the news before we decide to stand up and pay attention. And we should never be quiet. We must never be quiet when it is safe. We shouldn’t act like one killing is worse that the other. Don’t act like what happened in Sanford doesn’t happen anywhere else. This is happening all over the world. We see it in Sudan, we see it in the Congo, and recently we see it in Nigeria, and we see it on the street corners of America. Let this tragedy motivate us to become more involved and make better decisions in our communities. That’s what the residents of Sanford, Florida are going to have to do. They’re going to have to lift up that young boy’s life and do something positive with this tragedy.
"It is our responsibility to find out what we can do for our own respective neighborhoods. We must make the decision that time spent involved in school meetings and community development planning groups, neighborhood programs and local elections are vital. We can’t do this from a place of anger. That’s why we must efface anger into a mutual concern and compassion for each other. I’m talking about a human concern and a human compassion for one another that transcends race, class, gender and age.
"We cannot go anywhere with anger that we haven’t already been. Anger is an all-consuming fire that will burn you and everyone else around you. Where is the justice in that. As enraging and implorable as this tragedy is, we must think of ways of making a difference without being mad and brain sick. We have to teach our young people a better way, a more sustained way. We have to do better examples for our children. My only son was murdered and out of respect for him and what he accomplished in his short 25 years on this earth, I could not allow myself to be angry. So instead we build a center for young people, we planted a garden for peace and we started working with youth on conflict resolution. Leadership and safe and creative expression. Think of the least thing you can do that will benefit your community. Start as small as a mustard seed if you have to. I guarantee that the seed you plant in love, not matter how small, will grow into a mighty tree of refuge. We all want a future for ourselves and we must now care enough to create, nurture and secure a future for our children.”