Ericka Huggins

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ericka Huggins in 2011

Ericka Huggins (née Jenkins; born January 5, 1948) is an American activist, writer, and educator. She is a former leading member of the Black Panther Party (BPP).


Interview with Mother Jones (2016)[edit]

  • Everything draws on the things that came before. The Black Panther Party drew on the civil rights movement. All of the organizations in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s—the Young Lords, the Brown Berets, the Black Berets, the American Indian Movement, the Gay Liberation Front, the anti-war movement—drew on movements before them. In particular, the courage of the women in these movements is a legacy that the Movement for Black Lives draws on. I stand on their shoulders, and Alicia Garza, and Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi [the founders of the Black Lives Matter national network and creators of the hashtag], stand on theirs as well. The term Black Lives Matter is new. But there isn’t anything new about what is being requested of black people, of people of color, of white people. There is work that all of us must do, and because of social media we are more aware of it. That is the impact of Black Lives Matter. I’m particularly inspired that the people leading the movement are women—LGBT women.
    • "How would you say today’s Black Lives Matter movement draws on the Panthers’ influence?"
  • That’s a loaded question. I don’t know that I could say the Black Panther Party is more progressive, for instance, than Fredrick Douglass. Or that Martin Luther King was more progressive than Malcolm X. Or that Malcolm X is more progressive than Marcus Garvey. A movement brings together all kinds of peoples with differing perspectives, but the same goal. If you compare the Ten Point Program of the Black Panther Party to the platform of the Movement for Black Lives, you’ll see similar language. It isn’t that anybody copied the language. Anyone who has an open heart can see the violence of, for instance, the police today, the so-called correctional system today. Anyone with compassion will come to the same conclusion—that it has to stop. And the it that has to stop is racialized thinking, racist behavior, violent means to control people. Our response to that violence is sourced in love. So I don’t know about more progressive—everything has its purpose in its time.
    • Would you say today’s movement is more progressive on that measure than the Black Panther Party used to be?
  • I didn’t stop living when the Black Panther Party ended in 1982.
  • I was raised in DC and my mother was raised in the South. People protecting themselves against police violence—against Klan violence—against white council violence, was very common. Even clergy went to church with guns. Everyone has a right to defend themselves. What I hope this country will eventually do is not allow guns to be in the hands of persons who should not have them. But I don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with a person defending themselves against an attack. How do I feel about police violence? My heart is broken by it. I don’t have a political stance, because the word “politics”—when you look it up—means something that is debatable. And there’s nothing to debate. I met Tamir Rice’s mother and about 20 mothers who gathered in Oakland to share their stories. They cited being inspired by others who’ve come before them about how to reduce the unbearable pain of losing their sons or daughters. It never goes away. I think that police re-training and education is paramount. We want to abolish punitive law enforcement just like we want to abolish prisons. But there are people in prisons that we need to think about. And there are police officers on the street that we need to think about.
    • "I’m curious where you think we stand today in terms of black people’s relationship with guns?"
  • Celebrities are human beings. His eyes are open. He can hear. He’s paying attention to what he’s listening to. His heart is open. He’s tired of it—why wouldn’t he be? So he spoke. He’s not so worried about his paycheck or what people think. There’s something larger at stake. He’s a part of a multibillion-dollar industry and he’s breaking with the promise not to talk. That is what’s so beneficial about him. I cheer him on. When I was in DC at the new African American History and Culture Museum, the most celebrated statute in the museum on one floor was a statue of John Carlos and Tommie Smith who put their fists up at the Olympics in the ’60s. People were taking pictures with it. Kaepernick’s stance is empowering young black people today and it begs a look at history. He’s not the first, and he knows he’s not the first.
    • "What’s your view on Colin Kaepernick’s silent protests during the national anthem?"

Quotes about Ericka Huggins[edit]

  • A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Ericka Huggins-our friendship has now surpassed the half-century mark-speak at a conference on restorative justice in Toledo, Ohio, organized in part by my sister, Fania, who has worked as a practitioner of restorative justice for many years. When Ericka spoke of her own incarceration as a gift rather than an injury or deprivation, I thought to myself, "Yes, precisely. This is what I have been trying to say all along."
  • Ericka and the other sisters and brothers were released late that night. When she walked through the gates of Sybil Brand Institute for Women into the hard rain cutting through the night outside, she seemed as strong as ever. Seeing our sadness, our empathy with the pain she was surely suffering, she said, "What's wrong with you all? We can't stop now. We've got to keep on struggling." That was a moment I shall never forget. The sisters who had been with her inside the jail said that she was the one who had kept everyone's spirits high. She was the one who had most resolutely continued to carry the banner of struggle.
  • no community is a monolith. Whether we’re talking about white communities or Black communities or the Asian diaspora or Native communities, there is disagreement around a lot of things – gender, age, class. Going back to Ericka Huggins, that conversation was very formative for me, because I asked her, “How do I interact with elders I disagree with?” And she said, “You know, I had elders I disagreed with. This is a tale as old as time and is not a new thing. But are you moving in a principled way? Are you moving transparently? Are you being accountable? Is it really coming from a place that is grounded in a bigger vision of community care and wellbeing? Then keep moving in that way. If you’re not causing harm and what is being built is actually transformative, that will come out in the long run.”
  • It is important for us to know the history of Puerto Rican and Black women who fought for freedom of our peoples. We are not taught about them because even today people believe that women had no role in history. People still believe that women are only supposed to stay at home, cooking and sewing and raising children. These are the same things that were said to Sojourner Truth over a hundred years ago and they are still being said now. Women who speak out against injustice and fight for revolution are accused of acting like men, and we must understand that revolution is the job of men and women, brothers and sisters. We must learn from great women like Lolita Lebron, Carmen Perez, Antonia Martinez, Kathleen Cleaver and Ericka Huggins. This is what Point 10 of the YOUNG LORDS PARTY 13-Point Program and Platform means when it says "We want equality for women; machismo must be revolutionary and not oppressive."

External links[edit]

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