Black History Month Reflections: Tupac Shakur

Eddie Bocanegra
Senior Director, READI Chicago

As a pioneer of Chicago’s anti-violence campaigns, Eddie Bocanegra brings years of experience in community-based organizing and programs created to address trauma and build resiliency among those most impacted by violence. Eddie Bocanegra joined Heartland Alliance in June 2017 as Senior Director of READI Chicago. In this role, he oversees the management and implementation of the evidence-based and trauma-informed program to reduce gun violence and promote safety and opportunity. Eddie chose to speak about rap legend Tupac Shakur as we reflect for Black History Month.

Why did you choose this person?

Through music, Tupac was able to inspire and educate and influence so many people, and his lyrics transcended beyond just one race or nationality. Part of why I chose Tupac is how he died—shot multiple times. His death impacted so many people across all nationalities and across several continents, and when I compare him with the men we serve in READI Chicago, who have the odds stacked against them, I think about how any of their deaths would impact their families and communities.

Unfortunately, these lives are often overlooked. Tupac was a celebrity, and a lot of people in Chicago are never going to receive that type of attention when they die. Tupac was advocating for this population. He captured just some of the oppression and some of the injustice they face, and he tried to inspire people to see themselves differently and see their neighbors differently.

How do they inspire the work you do today?

Tupac inspires me to think about how I’m making a difference in my own life and how I can translate that to our participants. Similar to Tupac’s legacy, we try to remind ourselves and our participants, ‘What is your legacy?’ I try to leverage the power of his lyrics and what he was trying to lift up in READI Chicago. Like one of my favorite Tupac lines, READI Chicago is an example of how we have to learn see each other “as a brother instead of two distant strangers,” creating change among ourselves and our communities.

What do you think it will take to get to the future that he fought for?

We have to see the world for what it is and help build a world we really want to live in. This idea of equity has been around forever, and it’s going to be a long, hard fight. We don’t take the opportunity as often as we should to sit down and try to understand each other and find a common interest. When we don’t take the time to invest in relationships, to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and try to better understand someone else without letting our own personal views or values get in the way, we miss the opportunity to be able to build for others and build a community of love, trust, and commitment.