Metro Nashville Police Department found Shonka Dukureh dead in her Nashville apartment Thursday. 

The 44-year-old actress, who starred as Big Mama Thornton in Elvis, was found in her bedroom by her two children.

A neighbor called 911 at 9:27 a.m. when one of Dukureh's children found her unresponsive. 

Medical examiners are currently determining the cause of death, an MNPD spokesperson said.

She holds a bachelor's degree in theater from Fisk University and a master's degree in education from Trevecca Nazarene University .

Respecting her legacy, respecting her spirit, and recognizing how she laid the foundation for what I can do was important to me.

A teacher turned Hollywood star, she was set to release her first studio album this summer.

In celebration of those pioneering musicians and artists who paved the way for rock and roll, the project pays homage to blues music.

Nashville mayor John Cooper shared his condolences to Dukureh's family on Twitter. 


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