2Pac was a poet, also…

Poet, educator and community activist Leila Steinberg, who mentored a young Tupac Shakur before he got famous, after the started attending her poetry classes in Oakland, once told me this story about how she and 2Pac were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge one day, and no one had the cash for the bridge toll.

Just as they gave up and Leila pulled out a checkbook and wrote the toll keeper a check, his first hit, “Same Song” with the Digital Underground, came on the radio.

An excited young 2Pac said that they would never have to do that again.

I love that story, and although I know that writers seldom experience the kind of success that legendary rappers do, I love that a poet mentored him, right here in Oakland. I love that he was a poet, it shows in his lyrics.

And as I think about this, I remember how many of Leila’s workshops and open mics I attend with my mother, and how much my association with rappers over the years, all the things I did – including back in the mid/late 00s when I was one of those MySpace rappers – have influenced my voice as a poet, certainly, just as much as if not in some ways more than, all of that Edgar Allen Poe I consumed in my school library back in 7th grade.

I wish my mom Carolyn Saulson was still here. She was always by my side, always on my side, and doing things with me. But I like to think she is here in spirit. I am grateful to her, and also to my sweetheart Princess Chris Hughes

~ by Sumiko Saulson on January 29, 2023.

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