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Tupac the Freedom Fighter: 20 Years Later

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Tupac” by Evan McCarthy.

Tupac Shakur died twenty years ago today, several days after he was shot in cold blood in Las Vegas. Tupac was the first prominent figure in America to defend women on welfare (“Keep Ya Head Up”). That was only one of the songs he wrote that defended women in the face of abandonment, beatings, rape, and government neglect (“Brenda’s Got a Baby,” “Part Time Mutha,” “Papa’z Song,” “Dear Mama”).

Tupac was always quick to give love to the growing number of people locked away in prison (“Much love to my brothers in the pen / See ya when I free ya / If not, when they shut me in”). Just a month before he was killed, Tupac appeared at an LA press conference where he denounced the Three Strikes bill and spoke of mobilizing his millions of fans of every color into a political force.

Tupac also knew that the people in the neighborhoods have enemies and he denounced both the police and the black bourgeoisie (“To the sellouts livin’ it up / One way or another you’ll be givin’ it up”).

He remains a vital source of inspiration to countless people around the world.

We can never get nowhere

Unless we share with each other

We got to start makin’ changes

See me as your brother instead of two distant strangers

— Tupac Shakur

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Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: rockrap@aol.com.

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