EWOCC is pleased to announce that this year’s keynote for the 32nd Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference will be made by Ericka Huggins!
Ericka Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, educator, Black Panther leader and former political prisoner. For the past 30 years, she has lectured throughout the United States and internationally. Her extraordinary life experiences have enabled her to speak personally and eloquently on issues relating to the physical and emotional well-being of women, children and youth, whole being education, over incarceration, and the role of the spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting change.
Ericka’s desire to serve humanity began in 1963, when she attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. There, she committed to moving from the sidelines to the frontlines in the global human rights movement. In 1968, 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.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 two years before charges were dropped, including time in solitary confinement, Huggins taught herself to meditate as a means to survive incarceration. From this time on, she would incorporate spiritual practice into daily life, 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 1971, Ericka became writer and editor for the Black Panther Intercommunal News Service. 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, Ericka Huggins became both the first woman and the first Black person to be appointed to the Alameda County Board of Education. 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 20 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.
EWOCC is pleased to announce that this year’s closing address for the 32nd Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference will be made by Fatimah Asghar!
Fatimah Asghar is a nationally touring poet, performer, educator and writer. Her work has appeared in many journals, including POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, BuzzFeed Reader, The Margins, The Offing, Academy of American Poets and many others. Her work has been featured on new outlets like PBS, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, and others. In 2011 she created Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first Spoken Word Poetry group, REFLEKS, while on a Fulbright studying theater in post-genocidal countries. She is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and a Kundiman Fellow. Her chapbook After came out on Yes Yes Books fall 2015. She is the writer of Brown Girls, a web series that highlights friendships between women of color. Currently she is an MFA candidate at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan.