Tupac: Advocate of Hope
By: Sheraz Ahmad
The 1990's was a great time for a new genre of music known as rap to hit the west coast of the United States. While some used it to gain fame and fortune, a select few visionaries used it as a plateau to spread their message to the masses. Tupac Amaru Shakur was one of these great visionaries and is revered to some as the greatest rapper of all time. Tupac was best known for his ability to connect to his audience through rap songs that addressed issues of living life in the ghetto such as racism, police brutality, drug-abuse, and gang violence. He gave a voice to those in the ghetto who could not be heard.
In my own personal experience, Tupac connected to me through his album single, ‘Thugz Mansion”.
This song helped me endure the harsh realities I experienced when my family had lost our house in the economic recession of 2008. My whole life I had known nothing but the lavish life of having a big home of 9 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.
My mother owned one other home under her name and for the time being, we would have to take refuge their until she could afford something better for us. It was located dead center in “The Bully”, one of Pittsburg’s most infamous ghettos.
This home was a major downgrade for us at the time and being the spoiled kid I was, I didn't like it. All the “new” home had was 2 rooms and a bathroom. Nothing else but that. No kitchen, no living room, and certainly no laundry room. I felt isolated from the world that I once knew. Moving from my castle of a home to this windowless prison was damaging. The experience was crippling and one of the few outlets I had to suppress my anger and pain was listening to “Thugz Mansion”. Tupac describes ‘Thugz Mansion” as a huge home where there is no stress, no wars, no senseless violence, no poverty, just peace and love. Listening to this song helped me to believe that my “new” home could be this place if I could just get through another day living there. Believing definitely helped sleep through the gunshots my family would hear almost every night and the tears that ran down my face as I slept.
Being stripped of my home and forced to move to the ghetto sounds very similar to the struggles that the Palestinians faced in Edward Said’s book. I can’t say that what I experienced can add up to the injustices that the Palestinian people have felt but I understand their pain. Said writes “Like the history of the lands they left, their lives seem interrupted just before they could come to maturity and satisfaction; thus each man leaves behind family and responsibilities” (Said 38). I felt as if my childhood was being taken from me, like I was losing a part of my identity. Growing up I had this idea in my head that I was going to go through my teen years in this house. That most of my young life would be lived in this grand home. And when my mother told me, that she had lost the home, I felt a part of me die. All the possibilities that I had envisioned were struck down in one blow. Where would I have all these experiences and memories now? I felt cheated of my destiny. Leaving your home and the comfort you have known all your life to not knowing where you will sleep next was a new idea to me. And for the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable.
Nobody cares, seen the politicians ban us
They’d rather see us locked in chains, please explain
why they can’t stand us, is there a way for me to change?
Or am I just a victim of things I did to maintain?
I need a place to rest my head
with the little bit of homeboys that remains, cause all the rest dead
Is there a spot for us to roll, if you find it
I’ll be right behind ya, show me and I’ll go
How can I be peaceful? I’m comin from the bottom
Watch my daddy scream peace while the other man shot him
I need a house that’s full of love when I need to escape
the deadly places slingin drugs, in thug’s mansion
When I listened to this song again for this project, I realized how many small bits of Tupac’s lyrics could apply directly to Palestinians. Tupac creates a sense of struggle that transcends time and cultures. The Palestinians depicted in Said’s book have been stripped of their homes as well but on a more monumental scale. The Palestinians have been pushed out of their homelands entirely. Forcing them to scatter to other parts of the world where they are met by hostility and un-open arms. They are the homeless people of the world. Seeking shelter wherever they can and hoping that one day, their home will be returned to them.
Said’s exposure of the injustices that Palestinians must go through is how Said makes his writing matter. By writing about them and taking photos of them, he is in a sense presenting a case to the grand jury of the world. Showing us things that many of us did not even know were taking place is the first step to helping change the fate of the Palestinians and eventually giving peace to his people. Tupac, on the opposite end of the spectrum, writes about the oppression that people face living in the ghettos of America. By writing about these ignored problems of society and presenting plausible solutions, it empowers their writing. These aren't just “pictures” to Said, these aren't just “songs” for Tupac. They are pieces of expression given life through their use of the written word.
Everything these authors contributed to society through their works is proof that writing does matter and that writing can be used to change society for the better. Richard Miller asks “Can secular institutions of higher education be taught to use writing to foster a kind of critical optimism that is able to transform idle feelings of hope into viable plans for sustainable action?”. In school, we are taught to write narratives, critical analyses, and persuasive letters and ultimately none of these help us connect to what we are passionate about. That is where secular institutions fail us. Tupac wrote and rapped songs about the ghetto, a matter upon he felt very strongly about. Said wrote about the Palestinian people being unfairly treated by the world, a matter he felt passionately about. It is this passion and love that could be felt in between the words that these authors write that gave their writing value.
If we are to change how the newer generations of our society use writing, we have to show them the power of the written word. When you truly feel passionately about what you choose to write about, thats when it is given value. Until “secular institutions of higher education” realize this, the art of writing will die out and everything that connects us through literature will be forgotten. Let’s start by changing the paradigm, one sentence at a time.