September 13, 1996

2pac1

Where were you when you heard 2Pac died?

I was sitting in front of the television. I’d been glued to the same spot for hours every day, watching BET and MTV because they would be the first to report on any changes in his condition. I feared the worst and hoped for the best. This time, they broke into regularly scheduled programming.
While I can’t remember the exact words, I remember the soul crushing expression on Tavis Smiley’s face when he delivered the words I couldn’t bear.

“Rapper Tupac Shakur had passed away tonight.”

Tears poured from my eyes and would not stop. My sisters and mother crowded around me and hugged me and held me. I felt a sadness that I was all too familiar with.

Back then, we called Youngstown, Ohio Yompton. My friends were being shot and killed weekly. At 16, I’d been to over two dozen funerals for my friends. We were a small former steel town now mafia run and violence wasn’t anything new to me. My friend Bunny was the first funeral I attended as a teenager and the first funeral I attended for someone my age. We were 14.

Knowing that, I was well acquainted with hearing about people I cared about being murdered. But when ‘Pac died, I knew how Hendrix fans felt. How Lennon fans felt. How Marley and Cobain fans felt. I finally understood why people cried for strangers. Tupac’s death was a loss that was felt by family, friends, foes, and fans. It was a loss that brought a generation to its knees as we prayed for his soul and cried through our pain.

I loved ‘Pac in an unexplainable way. It wasn’t a schoolgirl crush or simply liking his music. I loved his music, his acting, his teaching. Pac was a teacher. He taught an entire generation of kids the importance of standing up for ourselves, to unleash out creativity, to think out the box, which we in turn taught our children.

Can’t raise the children cause they’re illin
Addicted to killin and the appeal from the cap peelin
Without feelin, but will they last or be blasted?
Hard headed bastard
Maybe he’ll listen in his casket – the aftermath
More bodies being buried – I’m losing my homies in a hurry
They’re relocating to the cemetary
Got me worried, stressin, my vision’s blurried
The question is will I live? No one in the world loves me
I’m headed for danger, don’t trust strangers
Put one in the chamber whenever I’m feelin this anger
Don’t wanna make excuses, cause this is how it is
What’s the use unless we’re shootin no one notices the youth
It’s just me against the world baby

-song lyrics from the track, Me Against the World, from the album Me Against the World

When I see the greatness in this generation of kids, this generation of teens like Zendaya and Amandla who are unafraid to be unique and stand up for what they believe in, I see Pac. When I see black girls embracing their beauty and redefining beauty standards, I see Pac. When I see black boys speaking out on the injustices society has bestowed upon them, being unafraid to call out racism and brutality, I see Pac.

I didn’t have to know Tupac in order to love him. In every interview, every performance, every song, Pac gave us a piece of him. I cherished that and losing Pac was like losing a family member. For weeks, people called to check on me, to see how I was handling his death. My family respected my mourning because they knew that I was suffering from a great loss even if they didn’t understand it.

I’m glad that Tupac was an entertainer despite that being the reason he is gone. His words, his image, his teachings are forever immortalized on wax, in print, on film, and digitally preserved forever. I appreciate that.
19 years later, I miss him.

With all this extra stressin
The question I wonder is after death, after my last breath
When will I finally get to rest? Through this supression
They punish the people that’s askin questions
And those that possess, steal from the ones without possessions
The message I stress: to make it stop study your lessons
Don’t settle for less – even a genius asks-es questions
Be grateful for blessings
Don’t ever change, keep your essence
The power is in the people and politics we address
Always do your best, don’t let the pressure make you panic
And when you get stranded
And things don’t go the way you planned it
Dreamin of riches, in a position of makin a difference
Politicians and hypocrites, they don’t wanna listen
If I’m insane, it’s the fame made a brother change
It wasn’t nuttin like the game
It’s just me against the world

-song lyrics from the track, Me Against the World, from the album Me Against the World

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