Ericka Huggins

Human Rights Activist, Poet, Educator and Black Panther Party Leader
Sustaining Activism With Love and Spirituality

Ericka is a proud, accomplished black woman with an amazing story of inspiration to share. Her attention-grabbing testimony of growth and success is presented against a backdrop of incredible stories of struggles and setbacks, the culmination of which has equipped her with mind-blowing insight and a deep passion for activism that revolves around spirituality, love and — above all else —hope.

Her life experiences have enabled her to speak personally and honestly on issues relating to the physical and emotional well-being of women, children and youth, whole being education, the incarceration of men and women of color, and the role of the spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting social change.

As a result of her 14-year tenure as a leading member of the Black Panther Party, Ericka brings a unique perspective to the challenges and successes of the Black Panther Party and its significance today.

Her desire to serve humanity began in 1963, when she attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. There, she committed to serving people for the rest of her life. In 1968, at age 18, she joined the Black Panther Party. She soon 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, on January 17, 1969, her comrade, Alprentice “Bunchy Carter” and John Huggins, her best friend and father of her daughter, was killed.

After returning to New Haven, Connecticut to be with John’s family, she was invited by community members and Yale University students to open a party chapter there. In May 1969, Ericka and Bobby Seale were targeted and arrested on conspiracy charges sparking “Free Bobby, Free Ericka” rallies across the country.

While awaiting trial for two years before charges were dropped, including time in solitary confinement, Ericka taught herself to meditate as a means to survive incarceration and separation from her baby daughter. From that time she’s incorporated spiritual practice into her community work, as a speaker and facilitator, teaching as a tool for change -— not only for herself, but for all people, no matter their age, race, gender, sexuality or culture.

Ten years after her release from prison, in 1981, Ericka returned to California state, county and federal prisons to share her experiences of yoga and meditation. For the past 20 years, she’s also taught relaxation and mindfulness in California youth correctional facilities, in addition to many California public school districts and community colleges.

Currently, Ericka is one of the facilitators with World Trust, which uses films that document, through story, the impact of systems of racial inequity. These films are tools to foster conversation about race, and all structural inequities. These conversations are powerful to personal and global transformation.

Ericka Huggins

Opening Keynote