Ericka Huggins

Ericka Huggins

Human Rights Activist, Poet and Scholar



Ericka Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, educator, Black Panther leader and former political prisoner. For the past 30 years, she has lectured throughout the United States and internationally. Her extraordinary life experiences have enabled her to speak personally and eloquently on issues relating to the physical and emotional well-being of women, children and youth, whole being education, over incarceration, and the role of the spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting change.

As a result of her 14-year tenure as a leader of the Black Panther Party (the longest of any woman in leadership), she brings a unique, complete and honest perspective to the challenges and successes of the Black Panther Party and, its significance today. Ericka’s desire to serve humanity began in 1963, when she attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. There, she committed to moving from the sidelines to the frontlines in the global human rights movement. In 1968, at age 18, she became a leader in the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party with her husband John Huggins.

Three weeks after the birth of their daughter, John Huggins was killed and Huggins was widowed. After returning to New Haven, Connecticut to be with John’s family, Ericka was invited by community members and students to open a party chapter there. She accepted the invitation.

In May 1969, Huggins and fellow Party leader Bobby Seale were targeted and arrested on conspiracy charges sparking “Free Bobby, Free Ericka” rallies across the country. The resulting trial, one of the longest and most celebrated of the era, spawned several books.

While awaiting trial for two years before charges were dropped, including time in solitary confinement, Huggins taught herself to meditate as a means to survive incarceration. From this time on, she would incorporate spiritual practice into daily life, her community work and teaching as a tool for change - not only for herself, but for all people.

A lifelong writer and poet, upon release from prison in 1971, Ericka became writer and editor for the Black Panther Intercommunal News Service. In 1974, her book of poetry chronicling her experience of imprisonment and liberation, Insights and Poems, co-authored with Huey P. Newton, was published. Her poetry and writings have appeared in numerous magazines and books.

From 1973-1981, Huggins was Director of the Oakland Community School, a groundbreaking community-run child development center and elementary school founded by the Black Panther Party. She created the vision for the innovative curriculum for the school, which became a model for and predecessor to the charter school movement.

In 1976, Ericka Huggins became both the first woman and the first Black person to be appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education.

In 1979, ten years after her release from prison, Huggins returned to California state, county and federal prisons and jails to share her experiences of yoga and meditation. A focus of her volunteer effort was her work with incarcerated youth. She has continued this work with adults and, in addition, has continued to teach in homes for foster and adopted children and pregnant teens. For the past 20 years, she has also taught relaxation and mindfulness in California youth correctional facilities in addition to many Northern California public school districts and community colleges.

In 1990, at the height of public awareness of HIV/AIDS, Huggins was the first woman practical support volunteer coordinator at the world-renowned Shanti Project. She also developed a unique volunteer support program for women and children with HIV in the Tenderloin and Mission districts of San Francisco. During her time at Shanti Project, Huggins helped develop citywide programs for the support of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning youth with HIV/AIDS.

Ericka is also available for programs featuring the documentary, Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and leading a lively and engaging post-screening discussion.

Spiritual Activism and Social Justice In this talk Ericka Huggins will share her personal experiences of finding life-affirming balance as an activist, and as a mother while on trial for her life. It is this balance that has continued to sustain her every day since. This talk will focus on everyone's capacity to find inner stability in the face of continual daily challenges, so that we create healthy ways to sustain our work and activism over the length of our lives.

Creating a Toolkit for Resiliency This session will be of direct benefit to students, faculty and staff as well as community participants. The purpose of this 80-minute session is for all to reflect on and discuss the race, gender, and identity challenges in school and work environments, and focus on heathy responses to these challenges through relaxing our minds, moving our bodies and acknowledging our emotions.

Other speeches include: • The Black Panther Party & Its Community Survival Programs • History, Identity and Culture • Health and Well-Being for Women of Color

  Topic Areas

African Americans/Black
Professional Development
High School Programs
Human Rights
Race/Racial Justice/Racism
Youth/Student Activism/Leadership

  Related Links


Lecture 16 | African-American Freedom Struggle (Stanford)


Cracking the Codes: History, Identity and Culture


41st & Central: Ericka Huggins "The LAPD"


Peralta News: Ericka Huggins


Ericka Huggins: The Role of Spiritual Practice in Social Justice Work | Bioneers 2016

Ericka is still politically active and encouraging change in society. She has an amazing history and background, yet she focused on the present and was more interested in our future than her own. She wanted to give us the chance to speak as well. She encouraged us to drop our shyness and use our great voices because they are important and crucial. She did not just come in and talk about herself. She was very interested in what we, the students, were concerned about. She was interested in the present and how that would affect our future.
Ken Fong Lo Biology major, California State University, Stanislaus

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