By Tamara Palmer
Todd Shaw a.k.a. Too Short moved to Oakland from Los Angeles when he was 14, but was already aware of the legacy that the Black Panthers had left in his community and beyond. The multi-platinum artist, who is working on his forthcoming album with a live band, talks about the impact of the revolutionary organization on the city — then and now.
RapFix: When you moved to Oakland, were you aware of a continuing Panther presence?
Too Short: Oakland had a lot of pride attached to the Panthers. A lot of people were connected to it in some kind of way and a lot of people who weren’t Panthers supported the Panthers. You’d see Huey P. Newton around, and people would be like, “That’s Huey right there.”
RF: Do you have any memories of Bobby Seale or Huey P. Newton?
TS: Something I remember very clearly: The city was upset about Huey being killed by a drug dealer. The way he got killed, the city didn’t like that. I remember people saying they didn’t care what the situation was, but the sentiment was that you just don’t kill Huey. They mourned the moment; even if you didn’t attend the funeral or know him personally, you still felt the loss.
RF: Do you think there was a deep knowledge in the city about what the Panthers represented by the Eighties, or had they just become an iconic symbol in the way that Malcolm X did?
TS: To me, that’s what it was. It was a moment to be proud of in history to say we did that. The negative image that the media put on it and the positive image that the inner city felt about it, [I felt] just a little bit of both. Without having to read a book or be told, everybody knew the story of the Black Panthers at that time.
RF: Do you think you related to it in a deeper way more so than someone like Malcolm X because they were from Oakland?
TS: I wouldn’t even say I relate more because of my Oakland connection. I would say because of the time. When Malcolm and Martin made their impact, I was just being born. I was born the year that Martin Luther King got assassinated. I was a child coming up in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement. The vibe that was in the city after the Civil Rights Movement kind of started dying down, that’s pretty much the time that the Black Panthers got started.
RF: Do you think kids in Oakland today know about the Black Panthers?
TS: I can guarantee that the majority of kids, no matter what age they are, they’re going to have some sort of opinion on the Black Panthers. It might not be the historical version but they have a visual and an opinion about what it was. Everyone knows they came from here because there’s always some event or some propaganda hanging somewhere around the city — something that reminds you that this is the home of the Panthers.
Information Wired from: RapFix