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Tupac Shakur: Unraveling the Politics of His Life and Assassination

Baltimore-based author and researcher John Potash summarizes his research into the life and assassination of Tupac Shakur and below is Potash’s response to the film All Eyes On Me.

Tupac Shakur: Unraveling the Politics of His Life and Assassination

art by Kot78 at deviantart.com

 

All Eyez On Me Spotlights Tupac’s Leftist Activism & Repression

by John L. Potash (July 6, 2017)

Leftist black activists don’t get represented in Hollywood productions much, unless they represent the more mainstream Civil Rights movement. All Eyez On Me gives the radical leftist angle on rap icon Tupac Shakur’s family, upbringing, and his little-known political activism. Despite some of the movie’s small departures from eyewitness accounts, it surprisingly creates a pretty close approximation of Tupac, and the U.S. intelligence apparatus that murderously targeted him and his Black Panther family.

The movie opens with a filmed interview that Vibe magazine conducted with Tupac in prison. This interview frames the first two thirds of the film, until it reaches the point when Tupac is recalling the reason he ended up there.

The film continues by describing how Tupac’s Black Panther mother, Afeni Shakur, was pregnant with Tupac while she successfully defended herselfas her own attorney in the New York Black Panther 21 trial. This trial had the world’s attention in 1971, with two books written about it. Afeni never married Tupac’s Black Panther father, but moved in with Mutulu Shakur who she calls a “revolutionary.” While the movie didn’t have time to cover Mutulu’s multifaceted activist leadership, they accurately showed Tupac calling himself a revolutionary at activist meetings with Mutulu.

The FBI appeared to falsely charge Mutulu with the infamous Brinks bank robbery, despite his having no actual involvement in it. All Eyez had Afeni say “They’re trying to neutralize him.” “Neutralize” was the word used in FBI documents for the agency’s attack on the Black Panthers. The targeting sent Mutulu hiding underground, and had the FBI further harass Afeni, Tupac and his sister. This was a continuation of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (Cointelpro) targeting of leftist activists, which targeted black activists in a particularly murderous way (e.g. the murders of Fred Hampton, John Huggins, etc). FBI Cointelpro agent whistleblower M. Wesley Swearingen said this continued well into the 1990’s, under different names, despite the FBI claiming they ended Cointelpro in 1971.

The FBI caught and imprisoned Mutulu in 1986. A beleaguered Afeni had taken solace in a wealthy New York man who also dealt crack—Kenneth Legs Saunders. The film shows Saunders’ brutality without depicting his drug dealing. They also didn’t present the evidence that he worked for a U.S. intelligence network of crack distributors, assisting “Mr. Untouchable” Nicky Barnes, who worked with Frank Mathews.

The film covers Afeni moving 14 yr-old Tupac and his sister to Baltimore where he studied at the Baltimore School for the Arts and met his close friend, Jada Pinkett (Pinkett-Smith, after marrying film start Will Smith). At 17 Afeni moved Tupac to the San Francisco Bay Area, into the home of his wrongfully imprisoned godfather, LA Panther leader Geronimo Ji Jaga (Pratt).

At 18 years old, Tupac was elected national chairman of the New Afrikan Panthers, though All Eyez on Me doesn’t mention this. The film does show Tupac talking to Mutulu about starting his “Thug Life” plan to appeal to gangs and politicize them, linking gangs with his revolutionary extended family. Tupac and Mutulu also discuss starting a Thug Life Code to lessen harm gangs do to their communities. Tupac also tried to politicize other rappers, such as his friend Biggie Smalls, which the movie depicts.

At 19 yrs old, Tupac left his activist leadership position to join Digital Underground, a Grammy-winning band. Tupac soon went solo with his first rap album, 2pacalyse Now. The film covers his rising career and the brutal attack on Tupac by Oakland police. Not mentioned is the fact that this attack occurred within several days of his first MTV video release from 2pacalypse Now.

Tupac soon also began acting and starred in the movie Juice, to great acclaim. All Eyez shows this along with presenting scenes from the movie and actor Demetrius Shipp replicating Tupac’s music videos, such as “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” and other socially conscious Tupac songs. They further show Tupac get attacked at the Marin Music Festival in 1993, which the movie tempered but this appeared in reality to be a second murderous attack with police involvement.

A month after the Marin attack, Dan Quayle made a televised speech denouncing Tupac’s first album and blaming it for a police officer’s death in Texas (which Tupac then sampled for a song on his second CD). Not mentioned was much evidence that San Francisco Bay area FBI director Richard Held had orchestrated these attacks on Tupac. A reporter in All Eyez states that “there is rumor that the FBI has a 4,000 page file on you.” This isn’t just a rumor as this movie review writer filed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request and a FOIA worker said there was over 4,000 pages. Only 99 were sent and even they were heavily redacted.

Afeni had went into recovery from her crack addiction and she told Tupac that as a black leader, he now “had a target on his back.” Tupac next got shot at by white police officers in plain clothes, who had started beating up a black man in front of Tupac’s car after a concert in Atlanta. Tupac shot back at the officers. All Eyez  contradicts eyewitnesses who said Tupac didn’t leave his car and the officers shot first, but the film includes key details about the cops using a gun taken out of an evidence locker.

The attacks on Tupac continued with what appeared as a frame-up for sexual abuse. Trial testimony generally supported the way the film depicted it. A new friend, Nigel, introduced Ayanna Jackson to Tupac in a dance club. She proceeded to give him a blow job on the dance floor, had sex with him later, and then came back to have sex with again several nights later. When Tupac left the room, she ended up telling police that Nigel and Tupac sodomized her.

Tupac’s lawyer found out that Nigel went by that alias, as well as the alias RicardoBrown, but his real name was Jacques Agnant. The New York District Attorney’s office treated Haitian music promoter Agnant, extremely favorably in court due to his “powerful connections,” the film points out.

All Eyez failed to mention Tupac’s posthumously released song “Against All Odds” with lyrics, “Let me lace this rap about a snitch named Haitian Jack/Knew he was working for the Feds… same crime different trials… set me up and wet me up.” Here, Tupac used slang to say Jacques worked undercover for the FBI, for which his lawyer found much evidence, to set him up on the sexual assault charge.

At the end of that trial, Agnant’s associates then “wet him up” in shooting Tupac five times. It was a murder attempt that the police tried to cover up as only a robbery, despite that they put two bullets through the back of his skull, according to a doctor’s affidavit, which Tupac miraculously survived. Las Vegas Sun reporter Cathy Scott wrote that the recording studio security guard offered the surveillance tapes of the shooters to the police. They refused the tapes and closed the case.

This shooting took place the night before Tupac’s jury presented its decision on his sexual assault case. The film condenses all the charges into two, but actually they found Tupac not guilty of forced sodomy, not guilty of attempting forced sodomy, nor assisting forced sodomy. They only found Tupac guilty of touching the woman’s butt against her will after what they both agreed was consensual sex and assisting Agnant to do the same. A judge egregiously sentenced Tupac to four years in a maximum-security prison for this charge. Agnant received a misdemeanor.

One shame about the movie was not naming Tupac’s personal manager–Watani Tyehimba. This has been common for mainstream media coverage of Tupac to leave out radical left political activists that mentored and worked with Tupac. To its credit, All Eyez rightfully says Tupac was funding black militants, it’s only too bad that it didn’t name these “militants.” Large money funders may have censored them out. Tyehimba cofounded The New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO) as their Security Director. NAPO’s founding chairman, the late Chokwe Lumumba, acted as Tupac’s national legal advisor.

All Eyez showed how Tupac experienced much abuse in prison. Evidence points to prison officials using a Cointelpro-type technique, Penal Coercion, to mess Tupac’s head up, while also using agents in prison among other techniques to influence Tupac in thinking his friend Biggie played a part in his shooting, or at least later didn’t help enough with finding his shooters. The film also didn’t state that Death Row Records, who signed a beleaguered Tupac to a three CD contract in prison, had dozens of police officers working at all levels  of their company.

The film showed Interscope letting Tupac down regarding his bail. In actuality, his record company gave much money towards Tupac’s bail, nearly as much as Death Row.  The Court of Appeals gave preferential treatment to Death Row though, letting Tupac out of prison on bail within days of Death Row’s offer, which was a about 1.4 million on $3million bail, versus the record company-led $1.3 million offer (note only 10% of bail is usually needed for a bail bond).

Out of prison, evidence points to Death Row continuing to manipulate Tupac with Penal Coercion tactics, from giving him a big bag of weed (barely noticeable in a briefcase of money) when Tupac had vowed to sober up, to beating people to death in front of him. The film shows Tupac getting mad at Snoop around the conflict with Biggie, without showing Suge Knight and Death Row’s constant involvement in creating such conflicts. The movie also failed to show Death Row’s constant attempts to counter Tupac’s top activist project. Tupac was spreading Bloods and Crips gang peace truces nationwide, and politicizing the gangs. Death Row trafficked drugs and constantly tried to reignite the gang wars.

The movie ends with Tupac’s murder at the age of 25. It doesn’t attempt to detail why someone killed Tupac. In the documentary, Biggie and Tupac, a high level white Los Angeles police detective, Russell Poole, said his fellow officers in Death Row, who his superiors called “covert agents,” murdered Tupac. This and the fact that an FBI agent said his fellow agents were in Tupac’s motorcade when he was fatally shot, supports that U.S. intelligence orchestrated Tupac’s murder.

While All Eyez on Me doesn’t cover all this, it gives more radical political information than virtually any more than any other movie with a 2400 screen release. It particularly let the audience understand that the FBI “had a target” on Tupac’s back, like the targets put on the backs of his Black Panther extended family. It’s definitely worth seeing in the theaters now, to not miss the important hard-to-see details, and to support the film spreading the word on Mutulu, who remains wrongfully imprisoned after his release date passed in 2016.

John Potash is the author of The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders, as well as Drugs as Weapons Against Us. www.fbiwarontupac.com

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