Ericka Huggins: Activist, Political Prisoner, Former Leader of The Black Panther Party

0 Posted by - August 20, 2017 - BLACK WOMEN, Injustices

Ericka Huggins was born in 1951. From an early age, she recognized the need to fight against systematic oppression, ghettoization, and all around horrible situation that members of the African American nation were forced to face.

To this end, she was active in the mainstream Civil Rights Movement, attending the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She eventually came to realize that oppression could only be ended with mass organization, mass political struggle, and armed self-defense of Black and otherwise oppressed communities. She and her husband, John Huggins, subsequently moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and became leaders in the local Black Panther Party chapter, which had been founded by Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter.

Carter and her husband were eventually murdered by members of the cultural nationalist organization led by Ron Karenga, which was allegedly working in conjunction with the LAPD and other law enforcement organizations. Nevertheless, this did not serve to dampen this revolutionary’s struggle or dedication to the masses. She went to New Haven, Connecticut, to be closer to John’s family, and was asked by community members there to found a New Haven Black Panther Party Branch.

In May of 1969, Huggins found herself, along with Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale and several other defendants, arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit a multitude of crimes, including murder, which stemmed from an incident in which an individual named Alex Rackley was killed by BPP members and dumped in a nearby river. Her two-year long span of incarceration, which encompassed many long months spent in solitary confinement, inspired her to embrace meditative and spiritual healing practices. 

On the outside, the mass protests and struggles being waged to free the New Haven Panthers eventually drove nearby Yale University into a state of disorder. High-level officials at the University, along with broad groups of students, were at least moderately supportive and skeptical of the ability of the Panthers to receive a fair trial anywhere in the United States. This led to massive protests on and around campus, and a shift in opinion and interest in the Panthers among white students and intellectuals.

The charges against Huggins and her co-defendants were eventually dropped (after Huggins’ case deadlocked, with the jury voting 10-2 for acquittal), and she returned to her mass work. She worked for the Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, which gathered and sent out information regarding activism throughout the country and the world. From 1973 to 1981, she also served as Director of the Oakland Community School, a novel institution serving as a child development center and elementary school. During this time, she also was appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education, and later led the struggle for recognition and treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. She continues her work today, working in any way possible against all forms of oppression.



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