Max Julien was not born in Oakland. Neither were Huey Newton or Tupac Shakur. And yet all three played fundamental roles in the creation of Oakland’s legendary counter-cultural identity. Huey was raised here from the age of 3, graduated from Oakland Tech unable to read, financed his college tuition by robbing houses in the hills, and went on to found the renowned and revolutionary Black Panther Party for Self Defense with Bobby Seale. Pac came here when he was 19, performed as a back-up dancer and roadie for Digital Underground, and became a decorated musician famous for both his poignant social insights and glorification of violence. Max Julien made his name on the laurels of his slick portrayal of an Oakland pimp named Goldie in the blaxploitation classic The Mack, but he is also a great writer, director, sculptor, political mind, and international activist. The point here being that all three of these characters were known for both their gifts and their curses– their light and their darkness. It seems that the internal battles between “good and evil” (for lack of better terms) waged within these local legends is emblematic of Oakland’s broader struggle to reconcile with it’s own beauty and destruction.
Though the parallels are evident, I would not have roped these three individuals together had it not been for the interview below. When 2Pac passed, Max Julien appeared on a VIBE talk show to share his thoughts. What results is the revelation that Max Julien knew 2Pac, godson of Geronimo Pratt, and considered himself good friends with Huey Newton. The latter struck me as particularly interesting given the Panthers negative response to the filming of The Mack under the protection of the Ward brothers back in ’73. Those of you who have seen the Making of The Mack documentary will recall that the Panthers tried to shut down filming of the movie. Accounts differ however, on whether the BPP opposed the filming of a pimp movie on moral grounds, or if Huey merely needed to be made a financial offering in exchange for his blessing.
These details however, are all Oakland nerd white noise next to the meat of Julien’s comments. He positions the assassinations of Pac and Biggie as high profile incarnations of the same genocide that happens every night to young men of color in cities around the world. He goes on to explain the ways in which we are educated to not value ourselves, and hence find nothing wrong with killing those who look just like us. He puts it far better than I, so I suggest you let him tell it. You may think you see Goldie the pimp sitting on the interview couch, but the type of game Max Julien is kicking is next level social theory on a corporate network’s dime. Now that’s pimpin.