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Tupac’s Stepfather Mutulu Shakur Dies 7 Months After Release from 37-Year Incarceration

By Matt De Vlieger · July 14, 2023

A widely published, more recent photo of Shakur.  

Mutulu Shakur, a long-time prisoner, Black liberation activist, holistic healthcare advocate, and stepfather of the late hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur, passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 72. Shakur died just seven months after his parole, bringing an end to his nearly 37 years of imprisonment. The reported cause of his death was cancer.

Mutulu Shakur was the stepfather of Tupac Shakur, the influential rapper and actor who rose to fame in the 1990s. Tupac Shakur, known for his socially conscious lyrics and activism, lost his life in 1996 in a tragic shooting incident. The bond between Tupac and Mutulu Shakur has often been acknowledged as a significant influence on the rapper’s worldview and pursuit of social justice.

Mutulu Shakur played a significant role in the development and implementation of the Lincoln Detox program, which utilized acupuncture as an alternative approach to drug rehabilitation in the 1970s. He later became assistant director of the program, obtained acupuncture certification, and went on to establish organizations such as the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA) and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture.

In 1988, Mutulu Shakur was convicted of conspiracy charges relating to several armed robberies, particularly the 1981 hold up of an armored Brinks truck, and his involvement in aiding the 1979 prison escape of Assata Shakur, Tupac’s godmother, who later sought asylum in Cuba. Mutulu Shakur’s association with the Black nationalist group Republic of New Afrika in the 1970s - which collaborated closely with the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords - played a significant role in his activism and eventually his incarceration.

While incarcerated, Mutulu Shakur remained committed to his political beliefs and pursued various initiatives to address social issues. One notable achievement was his involvement in establishing the first acupuncture detoxification program in the United States. The program aimed to combat the devastating impact of drugs on marginalized communities, demonstrating Shakur’s dedication to community health and well-being.

Shakur’s conviction stemmed from his participation in a series of armed robberies targeting financial institutions, resulting in his imprisonment and protracted legal battle.

News of Mutulu Shakur’s passing has sparked renewed debate over his complex legacy and the lasting impact of his activism. Supporters emphasize his contributions to community health initiatives and his dedication to fighting systemic oppression. Detractors argue that his criminal record overshadows any positive effect he may have had. Most agree, however, that his life as an activist and stepfather has left an powerful impact on the world.

Light Wave commentary

It now common knowledge that members of the Black Panther Party were unfairly targeted by the Federal Government and law enforcement in a covert effort to suppress their movement. Following years of negative news coverage focused on the group’s their militant appearance and occasional acts of criminality, the media have more recently focused on the constructive community engagement in programs conducted by many Party members, such as its successful school breakfast program for impoverished students. Mutulo Shakur embraced those values throughout his complex life. Mutulo indeed deserves to be remembered for the many good things he did for the black community. He was clearly in inspiration to his stepson Tupac, who in turn inspired generations of rap fans with his socially conscious lyrics and activism.