I know most of you are reading this title and thinking-- why would he put these three names together? Why is Tupac's name being mentioned with the likes of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X?
Well, that's quite simple. It belongs there.
This is a story of three men born with one name and dying with another. Three men who weren't afraid to change a generation, a culture, but most importantly, themselves.
If you open your mind and give me a moment, I'll show you how Tupac Shakur has more in common with these gentlemen than meets the eye.
Dr. King was born Michael King Jr. and later renamed by his father after German protestant leader Martin Luther. Dr. King was a very intelligent young man, skipping several grades in school and enrolling in college by the age of 15. His life's calling would have him do things most men would be afraid to do. Lead people. Lead a movement that could ultimately cost one their life, yet he still became a beacon in the Civil Rights movement, fighting for equality, fair wages, and education. He led several marches across the country, always maintaing the stance that people be nonviolent. Even when the oppressor goes low, we will not. It is often stated that, “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. King was an elegant speaker who delivered heartfelt and ground breaking testimonials. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his famous I Have A Dream speech. It is still, to this day, considered one of the greatest speeches in American history. But, it was another speech, one delivered just a day before his assassination, that most people believe preceeded the thought of his own death when he stated:
"I've been to the mountaintop, and I've seen the promised land; even though, I might not make it there with you."
Some also believed that Dr. King's stance was changing as he was quoted saying, "I fear I have integrated my people into a burning house." But like all men who truly desire to do good deeds, his life was cut short. He was assassinated at the young age of 39. He was a leader, hero, visionary and a true revolutionary. Today, Dr. King and George Washington are the only two Americans with a holiday named in their honor.
Now, brother Malcolm was a different kind of cat.
His past and upbringing were different from Dr King. Born Malcolm Little, his father would be killed in what many thought was a hate crime. Like King, Malcolm was very intelligent and excelled in school. One day, a teacher uttered some disparaging words. “There's no way a negro (and i'm being polite) would ever be a good lawyer.” So, Malcolm quit school at age 15 never to return.
Dr. King was in college at the age of 15. At age 15, Malcolm had quit school altogether.
Malcom dabbled in a life of crime and eventually went to jail for six and a half years. In prison, he read everything he could get his hands on. While incarcerated, his brother introduced him to Islam. He later started signing his name Malcolm X. The X replaced the slave master’s last name.
White people often accused Malcolm X of spewing hate. He was also opposed to Dr. King’s nonviolent protests. He felt blacks had been deprived long enough. He encouraged his followers to demand and be given respect, making his stance:
By any means necessary.
Malcolm was a gifted speaker and an unapologetic leader. He often said, “The cost of freedom is death.” Malcolm had an epiphany once he made his pilgrimage to Mecca and he saw muslims of all colors. He started to see that all whites weren't the enemy, in fact, some were allies. As i stated earlier, all men who truly fight to make a difference die young.
Malcolm X was assassinated at age 39. He was a leader, hero, and a true revolutionary who will forever be immortalized in the realm of history.
Now, on to Tupac. He was born Lesane Parish Crooks, but at the age of one, his mother changed his name to Tupac Amaru Shakur. He was named after an indigenous revolutionary. Tupac's mother was a member of the black panther party. From a young age, he had a very keen knowledge of self and instilled a love for his blackness, and most importantly, his black people. Tupac was a very talented and gifted young man. He attended a performing arts school where he wrote poetry, participated in ballet and starred in Shakespearean plays. Like Dr.King, he was renamed after a revolutionary leader. He was very sincere and passionate about what he wanted for his people. But then, like Malcom X he was fiery, unapologetic and ready for a change-- by any means necessary.
See, Pac was a mixture of both men. He may have had a little more Malcolm in him.
Tupac had an insatiable appetite for music. It was his outlet to speak on the issues plaguing the inner city and Black America. Tupac was relatable to all people. He was articulate, well spoken and full of knowledge. His early songs were mainly about social issues: Brenda's Got a Baby; Keep Your Head Up; Shed So Many Tears; and, Dear Mama. This was the Dr. King in him, relaying a message peacefully.
The naysayers believed Tupac was demeaning to women and discredited him for going to prison for an alleged sexual assault. He served nine months in prison. He was classified as nothing more than a thug. This would birth the Malcom X in him. He was tired of waiting for a change and in return started demanding it. He wanted to start the thug life organization, where Black people protected and policed their own neighborhoods. He wanted to organize a gang truce, which was also something Malcom X was big on. Solidarity.
Tupac was stern, voicetress, truthful and unapologetic. He was wise beyond his years, truly ahead of his time and could have possibly been our most influential leader ever.
He reached a point that Dr. King and Malcolm X could only dream of. He was a cultural icon. He was a rap and movie star with a revolutionary spirit. With that kind of influence, he could've reached billions. Just like Dr. King, he knew he had purpose, but he wouldn't be around to fully see it through.
" I may not change the world, but I guarantee that I'll spark the brain that will change the world." -Tupac Shakur
Like Dr. King and Malcolm X, Tupac was assassinated. At the age of 25, Tupac was another ‘brother of the cause’ gone too soon. Imagine how powerful-- how impactful he had to be to move and touch so many people. He was only a kid. He hadn't begun to tap into his full potential. But, just like his predecessors, his memory will live on. There are college courses being taught about him. There are murals of him in several countries around the world. His music is everlasting and timeless. It is just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.
Barack Obama, Jessie Williams, Shaun King and Colin Kaepernick to name a few. All whom have taken a stance and made a contribution to changing our unfair circumstances. Then look at the countless number of people, of all ethnic backgrounds around the country, peacefully protesting because they're fed up with a system that marginalizes and oppresses Black people. They are fiercely demanding change.
The type of change that all three men envisioned.
Tupac Shakur belongs with the names Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. No, all their views didn't line up, but their end goals were the same. Lift an oppressed people. Show them that being Black is bold, beautiful and royalty.
Rest in peace, power and paradise kings. Martin, Malcolm, and Pac.