Mutulu Shakur—the Black liberation activist and stepfather to 2Pac who was imprisoned for over 35 years—died on Friday of cancer, NBC News reports. Shakur had been living with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that can damage the bones and kidneys. He was released from federal prison on parole last year for health reasons. Shakur was 72 years old.

Mutulu Shakur was born Jeral Wayne Williams on August 8, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was raised in Jamaica, Queens, by his mother, who was blind. Shakur’s political awakening began as he helped his mother navigate the unjust social service system. At age 16, he joined the New Afrikan Independence Movement, and, in the late 1960s, he worked with the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), a Black Nationalist group that promoted ideals of Black self-determination and socialist change nationwide.

Shakur was also a member of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, which sought to establish a Black state in the South, as well as an independent New Afrikan Republic. He also worked closely with the Black Panther Party.

Shakur was an acupuncturist who practiced holistic medicine and worked to strengthen his community, specifically working with Lincoln Detox, an addiction treatment program founded in 1970 in the South Bronx by the Black Panther Party. Shakur worked there as a political education instructor and later as a counselor. He also treated withdrawal symptoms with acupuncture. In the late 1970s, Shakur became the co-founder and co-director of the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture. Shakur’s acupuncture work has inspired Standing on the Corner’s Taíno Needle Science Institute.

In 1988, Shakur was convicted of leading a group of revolutionaries through a series of armed robberies in New York and Connecticut in 1981. One of the incidents left two police officers and a guard dead, and Shakur was sentenced to 60 years in prison. He was charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, bank robbery, armed bank robbery and bank robbery murder, as well as assisting fellow activist Assata Shakur in her escape from a New Jersey prison in 1979. Mutulu Shakur’s supporters have argued that he was a political prisoner and that authorities wanted to make an example of him due to his activism.

In 2016, 2Pac’s mother and Mutulu Shakur’s ex-wife, Afeni Shakur—who was also a political activist, philanthropist, former Black Panther—died of cardiac arrest.


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