Jeff Perera argues that the following video is actual footage of Tupac Shakur before he met his demise **
Many of us are familiar of this image of Tupac Shakur moments before he was fatally shot at 25 years of age. In the following excerpt, I explain how the video shown is footage of Tupac taken before his death.
“I was raised in the Jane & Finch area, a storied neighborhood in the city of Toronto infamous for violence and poverty, but also home to some amazing people. I grew up alongside people of African, Caribbean, Latin, Asian and South Asian descent. For the most part, I grew up not considering myself the type of male which women in the neighborhood found…attractive.
If his status ain’t hood/I ain’t checkin’ for him/Betta be street if he looking at me/I need a soldier/That ain’t scared to stand up for me/Gotta know to get dough/he betta be street
- Destiny’s Child ‘Soldier’
I was never the tough, dangerous or rebellious type, rather the funny, nice, nerdy guy that could cry at movies, carry a conversation. I liked Tori Amos, Depeche Mode, Madonna and rock music as well as hip hop. I ended up having romantic or sexual relations mostly with white women, as they seemed to be more attracted to me. Power and privilege in society allowed the ‘Masculinity Guidelines’ for white men some room for experimentation around their performance of gender. Examples of this range from David Bowie to 80’ metal bands doused in permed hair, tight leather and lipstick to numerous ‘sensitive’ leading male actors. Prince was the only black man we saw on TV truly bending strict gender rules, and he was the punching bag in every joke in the neighborhood. He was a ‘fag’ despite his public image as being extremely sexually active with women.
I recently realized there was another young heterosexual male of colour who struggled with not embracing the rude, aggressive bad boy as their persona, image and identity.
The young man seen in this video is a 17 year old boy, a young man on the edge.
The man Tupac became was a man of violence. He didn’t just rap about guns and gangs; he lived that life on and off record. This video highlights the true tragedy around his death…having lived a life which led directly to a very early death.
I will submit to you that the footage that you just watched…was shot just before Tupac’s death. Yes, this footage is in fact from when he was 17 and he was killed at 25. I say to you, however, that you just saw images of a young man moments before his death.
Say you are standing on the edge of a cliff.
Below is the bottom which is beyond sight.
Say you are pushed, or fall off this cliff, free falling to your death.
One could say you didn’t actually die until you travelled the seemingly eternal trip down and hit the ground. One could also say you died the moment you stepped or fell off the edge, and that your free-fall decent was just a ‘slow-motion’ sight to an onlooker of a person dying… their eyes already mourning you as they follow your body along the long journey down.
Shortly after this video was the moment where this young man stepped back and reflected on how things were unfolding for him as ‘the Nice Guy’. It is said that Tupac got 80% of his tattoos within a week, an example of him diving head first into a new chapter. Some people watched this video and commented on how he appears so ‘gay’. This is rooted in a devaluation of women that denies men permission to express their so-called ‘feminine’ side, which is a part of their true self, their humanity.
The Tupac in this video was not permitted to stay surfaced, by a system, by a society, by himself. How many young men are standing at the edge, about to fall over? This is an issue when it comes to boys all across the globe, regardless of race, but becomes an intensified for racialized men who lack privilege and power in society. How many young boys are afraid to be ‘stranded too many times in the ‘friend-zone’, get caught up in the struggle facing young men and become tired of just being ‘somebody’ and wanting to ‘Be Somebody’?
This side of Tupac was buried long before the rest of his mortal shell at 25 years of age.
This side of many men is forever stuffed into a box and stored in the basement of their heart. We all must consider how we can impact a shift to save this side of a man’s humanity and self from an internal extinction. I feel an overwhelming sense of urgency, at every moment, to stop cycles of abuse, to help catch men and boys lost in free fall. Many boys and men worldwide are in a downward decent of pain and suffering that is inflicted upon not only themselves, but anyone they love, anyone who loves them, or anyone in their way.”
**Excerpt taken from the Higher Unlearning article ‘Chris Brown and The Sounds of Young Men in Free Fall’
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Higher Unlearning is an online space for us to discuss how ideas of manhood & masculinity affect us in everyday situations and scenarios. Founded by Jeff Perera of the White Ribbon Campaign. Higher Unlearning allows for folks from all walks of life to contribute interactive articles, stories, testimonials, essays, photo essays and videos on how ideas of gender limit and impact us all in a variety of ways. Watch Jeff’s TEDx talk ‘Words Speak Louder Than Actions’.