Titled “Peace, Love & Respect; the Afeni Shakur/Panther 21 story,” actor/writer/director Jasmine Guy and writer/director Jamal Joseph — who was arrested as one of the “Panther 21” with Afeni — are on board as executive producers, while Dina LaPolt, who worked with the estate for many years, is a producer. The film, titled “Peace, Love & Respect, the Afeni Shakur/Panther 21 story,” is the first to have the full backing and approval of the Shakur estate.
The film will span a pivotal two-year period — from April 2, 1969, when she and 20 other Black Panthers were arrested and charged with conspiracy to bomb police stations in New York, through June 16, 1971, the day Tupac was born — along with flashbacks to childhood and teenage years.
LaPolt — who worked for many years with Afeni to settle Tupac’s estate, ultimately releasing nine posthumous albums as well as books and a documentary — says the story is close to her heart, as Afeni was a hero to LaPolt’s activist mother. “My mother was very much a part of the civil rights movement — she taught me about Afeni and how she was arrested as a member of the ‘Panther 21.’”
Born in North Carolina as Alice Faye Williams in 1947, Afeni Shakur moved to the Bronx with her mother as an 11-year-old. She joined the Panthers after hearing Bobby Seale speak in 1968, and married fellow Black Panther member Lumumba Shakur soon after.
“When the trial started, Afeni had gotten pregnant when she was out on bail,” LaPolt continues. “Two of the Panthers absconded, the judge freaked out and Afeni got put back in jail. She was five months pregnant [with Tupac] and made a motion to get a glass of milk for her unborn child! She had a lot of self-confidence, and that’s our movie — it begins with the day she was arrested.”
Shakur would go on to represent herself in the trial and ultimately be acquitted. “That’s a testament to what a powerful woman she was,”
While the history of the Black Panther party has been extensively documented, few have been told of the women who run the chapters and helped to organize. “The free breakfast programs, the medical facilities, the newsletter, information about where to go for access to education — that was run by women,” says LaPolt.
Guy, who penned the 2005 biography “Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary,” tells Variety, “I was honored when Afeni asked me to author her biography. Now, I have the opportunity to honor her life and her legacy on the screen, and I am very excited to share her remarkable story this way.”
Joseph — who wrote the 2006 book “Tupac Shakur Legacy” and is currently developing a new limited series, is now a professor of film at Columbia University — and was the youngest member of the Panther 21.
“Afeni Shakur lived a life of challenge, power, rebelliousness, genius and beauty,” he says. “This is an origin story of a fierce, sexy, trailblazing, woman in Blackness Super Hero!”
LaPolt spoke about the upcoming project and the next steps. There is a film treatment in place as well as a summary of what they foresee the film being. Says LaPolt, “What we want to do is to take meetings with production companies. We would love to partner with ARRAY or Juvee Productions. I foresee a Black woman director, screenwriter, or Black woman production company [coming on board], that would be our dream. That would be our goal.”
Adds LaPolt, “Afeni always wanted Jasmine to write her book, the Shakur estate could not imagine doing Afeni’s biopic without Jasmine Guy involved.”