On my sunday's show, my guest was Ericka Huggins who was the Ten year Director of Oakland's Community School founded by The Black Panthers.Listen to the show
or see photos
i found my secretary of education! on this show we fleshed out what my education policies will look like...while talking about her life. this is one of the most important show that we have ever done...also warm and down-home!
And soon the show was starting, and like we were saying later, right away we could feel how Ericka saw Frank, saw this ... what a warm, soft, amazing woman. Frank said later, she is one of the heroes. And you could feel this throughout the show. Loved how she said near the end of the show, in response to Frank asking how she keeps hope, in saying that the struggle never ends, that it is "paying rent on the world". We could have listened to her talk for hours ... there were so many threads that lead out of her working with the Black Panther Oakland Community School that could have taken you down hours-long conversations ... we were really looking forward to her coming back again. It was really neat how, after saying that she had to go after about an hour and a half, it got even cozier, and then she really had to tear herself away. We were blown out at her stories of the school, and of her work with the county of Alameda on the board of education ... and her perspective on everything ... it all felt like us ... and so neat how she really loved Frank and how deep everything went, even talking about an element of Frank's presidential plan, to bring prisons into the education department ... It was too short!
We were ready early and Ericka Huggins arrived. She really liked our house and said it had a warm feeling and we settled right into an amazing Shaman's Den with her. There were so many things that could be talked about that she started with the Oakland Community School and would talk about her life in relation to that and then we could have her back to talk again about other parts of her life. Hearing about the Oakland Community School was amazing, first starting out in houses, the children's house, you could feel that it was community, family, one body where they took care of the children and respected them, giving them what they needed to thrive. The children teaching the children, if a younger child was good at something they might teach and older kid what they were good at. They taught them real history, and math that was about how to be in the real world, like taking them to the corner store. They taught the kids how to work out conflicts with each other, to talk to each other and work it out. They taught them to ask questions. It was amazing to hear about this school and how they really loved the kids and took care of them and would not separate out kids by color or age or needs. They fed them three meals a day which influenced California to have a breakfast program in all schools. Ericka said that after spending time in prison she does not want anyone to be in prison. She talked about her time on the Alameda school board when it was all white men who never went to visit the schools where the orphaned kids were locked up with the kids who had committed "crimes." She brought out the poor conditions of these places to the media and then changes started to happen about the quality of their care. It was inspiring to hear about her life and the school and the deep hope that she carries for good things to happen in the world. Can't wait for part 2, and 3 and 4 to learn more about her amazing life. After the show we talked about how lucky and amazing it is that we get such incredible people on the show sharing their amazing lives with us!
MORE ABOUT ERICKA written by Shani Peters:
Ericka Huggins is a human rights activist, poet and teacher, as well as a former Black Panther leader and political prisoner. For the past 25 years, she has lectured throughout the United States, where her extraordinary life experiences enable her to speak personally and eloquently on issues relating to the physical and emotional well-being of women and children, youth, incarceration, education, and the role of the spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting change.
As the result of her 14-year tenure as a leader of the Black Panther Party (the longest of any women in leadership), she brings a unique, complete and honest perspective to the much debated challenges and successes of the Black Panther Party.
Huggin’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. Three weeks after the birth of their daughter, John Huggins was killed and Huggins was widowed. After returning her husband’s body to New Haven, Connecticut, Ericka opened a Panther chapter there.
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 2 years before charges were dropped, including time in solitary confinement, Huggins taught herself to meditate as a means of survival. >From this time on, she would incorporate spiritual practice into 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 1972, Huggins 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 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, 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 and county prisons and jails to teach Hatha Yoga and meditation through the Siddha Yoga Prison Project. 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 15 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 city-wide programs for the support of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and questioning youth with HIV/AIDS.
Currently Huggins is a professor in Women’s Studies and brings her legacy of spiritual activism and social justice to her teaching.
See also, http://erickahuggins.com/