I first reached out to Dr. Mutulu Shakur in 2004 during a time in my life when I needed more than anything, to be understood and I knew that he, of all people, would hear my voice and that my words and my story would matter to him because of his background as an expert on naturopathic cures for addiction.
I was only 10 years old when my Father passed away from a drug overdose – the needle hanging from his veins representing a feeble attempt to escape the reality of his painful life experiences. My Mother was hanging on by a thread in her battle against colon cancer. The two strongest, smartest, most influential people in my life had lost and were losing the biggest fights of their lives and there I stood with two little girls of my own to raise along and to teach the ways of the world.
This is the reason that I was initially motivated to write a letter to Dr. Shakur while my Mother was still by my side – perhaps to show her an assuring sign that hers and my Father’s family legacies would be honored. My Mother was pleased to announce when that first letter from Dr. Shakur was delivered. Despite her own struggle, it was reassuring to see the glimmer in her eyes. She encouraged me to keep the correspondence going, to share my Father’s poetry with him, and to never give up on being the kind of person who the world needs.
Fast forward to 2011: although I hadn’t intended to let so much time pass, life happened and the years quickly escaped me. In 2005, earned my Associates Degree, was married and delivered my third daughter, relocated 2500 miles across the country, lost my Mother in 2006, began working full-time in 2007, and finally finished my Father’s story in 2010.
Before I knew it we had entered 2011, I was finishing my BBA, and I realized that I had dropped the ball on communicating with Dr. Shakur.
I sent a copy of my Father’s story, and we quickly re-established contact as if we had never missed a beat. Dr. Shakur encouraged me to stay on the path I was on and consistently shared his wisdom with me. He heard my voice and helped to validate and begin to heal from even my worst troubling and difficult experiences. Many of our common were unspoken… we shared connections based on us simply living as empathetic human beings. We didn’t speak much about his son Tupac, except to establish the understanding that he mourned his loss, and that as a Father he had inherited a larger than life legacy that overshadowed any one individual.
He should know that the sacrifices made by his family are representative of a collective, and have not been in vain. It is important to me that he knows he does not mourn alone nor has he been forgotten while he’s been locked up behind bars for three decades.
Over the next five years, Dr. Shakur has become my mentor. One of my daughters calls him grandfather – something that brought a smile to his face when I shared it with him during our visit. When I enrolled in Graduate School, he asked me to send him copies of my papers, he collaborates with me on topics of Media Psychology and has figured out ways to incorporate my research into his studies, and he began addressing me as Dr. Jacqueline.
After many letters back and forth, her reached out by phone and we established a more familial relationship – it was a natural kinship. Should I decide to pursue my PhD and become a Dr. Jacqueline, it will be as a direct result of his belief in my ability to do so.
When I made the move from Virginia to Vegas in June of 2015, he added me to his visitor’s list, and in August I drove from Vegas to Victorville to spend a lovely afternoon celebrating his belated 65th birthday with him over Mint Milano Pepperidge Farm cookies, Sun Chips, and Lipton iced tea… In those brief hours, he was the Father that I had lost, the Big Brother I never had, the Uncle who protected me, and the Friend we should all be so lucky to have. We had a photo taken to capture the memory and then walked back over to the visitor’s table – him slightly limping on a cane as he recovered from some health issues, and me proudly walking beside him, cherishing our bond and happy that he was as happy and healthy as could be expected under the circumstances – and that in 30 years his spirit to has never been broken within those walls.
I asked him questions, and answered his. By the conclusion of our visit I had an epiphany. I realized that he was truly a healer. Although it was something I’d known on a subconscious level all along, I suddenly became abundantly AWARE.
I’ve always wanted to believe that America was about giving it’s citizens a chance at redemption. Given the chance, I have absolutely no doubt in Dr. Shakur’s intention to make the most of his opportunity for redemption.
Mutulu Shakur is a human being who has the right to be free, deserves the chance to be free, and equally important the world needs for Mutulu to be free!