Sunday, January 29, 2006

(2006) reflection upon the ten year anniversary of the death of Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur

I didn’t know him. Never met the man.
But his music reminded me.

Ten years ago, the summer after graduation.
I still believed in love at first sight
still went to movies when they first came out
and thought that $100 was a lot of money
I was listening to the radio
watching long lean spindly legs shake the hardwood floor
of the large room at the community center where I was working
Then one of the girls said
I just talked to my cousin. I heard that Tupac is dead.
She was crying
if not for him, but for others like him who were nameless.

I didn’t know him. Never met the man.
But his music reminded me.

El Cerrito High
August 1994
ten years into the crack epidemic
but working our way to upward mobility
I was
hanging with my fifteen year old girlfriends
back from summer vacations
filled with part time jobs, first boyfriends
weight loss and makeovers
attempting to live up to the dream
of being the women
that made the hormone high gender enthusiasts
shudder., stop, and take shelter
from a single look
while dealing with the reality of being
a scared sophomore trying to swim
in an ocean that is two feet deep
and not touch bottom
“Shhh…loose lips sink ships.”

I didn’t know him
Never met the man. But his music reminded me.

His music reminded me
of listening to “Brenda’s Gotta Baby” bumping in our rooms
reminding me of Rosemarie
who told me with a matter of fact voice
that she gave birth to a baby at eleven
that died in her arms
that wasn’t in her adoption records
that her foster mom didn’t know about
that was the “cutest thing in the world.”

I didn’t know the man
Never met him
but his music reminded me

a starry night at the shoreline
the summer before his death
and a fist love
sharing secrets
in a rustling wind
and the meandering meanings
of dear mama
that floated higher than the crest of the waves
lingering long after they’d gone away
the darkened room
there is a love song, and then, another song
“You need a thug in your life, cause n*ggas ain’t loving you right”
long before I made the decision to remain a virgin until marriage
when I was looking for validation
tender touches
and looks that said
you are wanted

I didn’t know him. Never met the man.
But his music reminded me.

After his death, when I took theater
our class listened to Hail Mary
still captivated by this man who seemed to defy the death sentence
so aggressively rendered against him
Two beyond theater as college students flocked in a crowded class room
and took the first Tupac Shakur Class
and studied his work in a revolutionary abstract academic
that danced like ink on paper
wetted by rain and wind
theorizing the philosophy of “Ride or Die.”
that separated so many of us
from the fate of our contemporaries

We wondered
who this enigma
of music and poetry
of love and hate
and duplicity
would be if he were not murdered

who would we be
if a generation of our peers
had managed to escape the fate of green fields and black earth
too early

but it wasn’t until seven years later
when we had surpassed the magic number
25 black and still alive
with college degrees
and no babies
did the words of a friend resonate clearly
“I used to be so into that. But now when I think back on it, it seems so stupid”

We have lived to see the luxury of self reflection

and yet
ten years later
his voice calls to us
reminding us
of who we were

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