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There, in May 1969, Ericka and fellow Party leader Bobby Seale were targeted and arrested on conspiracy charges sparking calls for “Free Bobby, Free Ericka” across the country and around the world. The resulting trial, one of the longest and most celebrated of the era, spawned several books including Agony in New Haven: The Trial of Bobby Seale, Ericka Huggins and the Black Panther Party by Donald Freed. While awaiting trial for almost 2 years before charges were dropped, including time in solitary confinement,Ericka taught herself to meditate as a means of survival. From this time on, Ericka would incorporate spiritual practice into her community work and teaching as a tool for change—not only for herself, but for all peoples.

A lifelong writer and poet, 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 including fellow political prisoner Angela Y. Davis’ If They Come in the Morning and the anthology, Want To Start A Revolution-Radical Women In the Black Freedom Struggle, edited by Dayo Gore, Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard.

As an educator, from 1973-1981 Ms. Huggins was Director of the highly acclaimed Oakland Community School, a groundbreaking community-run child development center and elementary school, founded by the BPP. She created the vision for the innovative curriculum for the school, which became a model for and predecessor to the charter school movement. During this time, with the help of Maya Angelou and funding from the Bay Area Black United Fund, Ericka developed the After School Academy. This innovative program sponsored by the Oakland Unified School District met the recurring student need for teacher/mentor connectedness, academic enhancement and cultural nurturance. In 1976, Ericka 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, Ericka returned to California state and county prisons and jails to teach Hatha Yoga and meditation through the Siddha Yoga Prison Project. A focus of Ericka’s volunteer effort is 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 Ericka has also taught relaxation, and mindfulness in California youth correctional facilities in addition to many Northern California public school districts and community colleges.

From 1994-1999, Ericka was a training consultant and in-school educator for The Mind/Body Medical Institute (M/BMI), a Harvard Medical School affiliate. The program empowered teachers and students to practice relaxation, yoga stretching and mindfulness as a tool to maintain internal locus of control and minimize daily challenges. During her work with the M/BMI Education Initiative, in South Central Los Angeles middle schools, an attendant research component verified that five visits to a classroom of 6-8th graders positively shifted student standardized test scores, school attendance and classroom management.

In 1990 at the height of public awareness of HIV/AIDS, Ericka 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, Ericka helped to develop city-wide programs for the support of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth with HIV/AIDS. She is a sought-after facilitator by organizations working to increase cultural competency and develop strategies for staff resiliency.

Huggins holds a Masters degree in Sociology and teaches Sociology, Women’s Studies and African-American Studies in the Peralta Community College District where she brings her legacy of spiritual activism and social justice to her teaching. A sought-after speaker for classroom, conference panels and television, Ericka lectures locally and abroad from Stanford University, U.C.L.A., Cornell University to most recently Lisbon, Portugal and Sao Paulo, Brazil. A mother of three, grandmother of two, she lives in Oakland, California.OCS.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0