Photo of Ericka Huggins
(Credit: Peggy Moore )

Ericka Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, educator, former Black Panther member and political prisoner.

Ericka’s political activism began in 1963, when she attended the ‘March on Washington’ and committed to moving from the sidelines to the frontlines in the global human rights movement. In 1969, at age 18, she became a leader in the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party with her husband John Huggins. She spent 14 years working with the Black Panther Party - the longest of any woman in leadership.

In May 1969, Ericka and fellow Party leader Bobby Seale were targeted and arrested on conspiracy charges. Ericka was forced to spend time in solitary confinement and awaited trial for two years before charges were dropped. As a means of survival, she taught herself to meditate, and has since been incorporating spiritual practice into her community work and teaching as a tool for change.

Upon release from prison in 1972, Ericka became writer and editor for the Black Panther Intercommunal News Service. Her book of poetry chronicling her experience of imprisonment and liberation, Insights and Poems, co-authored with Huey P. Newton, was published in 1974. Her poetry and writings have appeared in numerous magazines and books. From 1973-1981, Ericka was the Director of the Oakland Community School, and created the vision for an innovative curriculum that later became the model for the charter school movement. In 1976, Ericka was both the first woman and first Black person to be appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education. Furthermore, ten years after her release from prison, Huggins returned to California state and county prisons and jails to teach Hatha Yoga and meditation through the Siddha Yoga Prison Project. Ericka has also worked with the world-renowned Shanti Project and helped develop city-wide programs for the support of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and questioning youth with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco.

For the past 35 years Ericka has lectured on human rights, restorative justice, and the role of spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting social change. Her work as a speaker and facilitator is based in her belief in the greatness of the human heart.

Ericka is currently a facilitator with World Trust, a catalyst for racial equality. Utilizing film, World Trust encourages conversation about the system of racial inequality. She is also a professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Merritt College in Oakland, California.