All he is now is dead

September 20, 1996|By Talibah L. Chikwendu

I DIDN'T KNOW who Tupac Shakur was until I saw the movie ''Poetic Justice'' a few years ago. Until then, I had not heard his name. Needless to say, I didn't make the trek to Brooklyn for his memorial service. I understand it was an intimate crowd; probably consisting of people who knew him when, as opposed to people who know about him now. I'm sure it was a sad occasion and I offer my prayers to his family. It is painful to lose a loved one, especially to violence.

But I'm beside myself at the message of the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of Lord Pentecostal Church. He likened Tupac's desire to be a ''revolutionary'' to the missions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. He compared the ugly, sordid life Tupac lived to that of his mother who, along with other members of the Black Panther Party, was unjustly arrested and jailed while pregnant with him.

How dare he mar such rich heritage and positive examples with such an unsavory comparison!

Tupac wasn't even a gangsta, he was a thug. Not only did his music celebrate the most negative parts of human experience, but so did his life. Instead of using the negative he saw to build a better way, he magnified and glorified it. His music proposed no solution, fix or compromise, advocated no change. His message was violence and self-hatred. The saddest part is that he had the money, audience, medium and time to make a real difference, a positive one. All he is now is dead.

Society's role

The preacher blamed society for unemployment, dilapidated housing and drugs in black communities. Those conditions do exist disproportionately in black communities, and not because the black people living there choose to live in that way. Society does have a hand in creation of those circumstances and in the continuation of them as well.

Let's be clear, though. Tupac was not a victim. He had a way out for himself, his family and friends, and refused to take it. Instead, he pulled the negativity to him so closely that he had ''Thug Life'' tattooed on his stomach. He chose the life he led, the life of a thug. He chose the way he died, the death of a thug.

Wrong a lot

Mr. Daughtry added that while Tupac may have gone about being a ''revolutionary'' in the wrong way, it wasn't his place to judge. How can a minister be so irresponsible? I certainly am not God, but I believe I have a right and moral obligation to recognize and label ''wrong'' when I see it. Tupac, well, he was wrong a lot.

I do not mourn his passing, because he lived as he wanted. I hope we as a society find a way to address the violent loss of a possibly productive 25-year-old black male. We should not look at his death as a commentary on ''gangsta rap.'' People make choices; our choices are expanded by the things we see, read and hear, not restricted or limited to them. His death should not hTC be dismissed as normal.

I hope we can focus on the man he was deciding to become, the glimmer of a change I saw in his words during one of his last interviews. ''Thug Life to me is dead,'' said Tupac Shakur. ''If it's real, let somebody else represent it, because I'm tired of it. I represented it too much. I was Thug Life.''

I believe at the end he realized everything his life had become was a result of his choices, and he was ready to begin making different ones. Perhaps other young people can hear those words, be ready to learn from his mistakes and walk toward the future he no longer has, instead of listening to his music and choosing to walk the path of his destruction.

Good-bye Tupac. Rest in peace.

Talibah L. Chikwendu is a Baltimore free-lance writer.

Pub Date: 9/20/96

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