(Originally published 2015 in Humboldt State University’s newspaper, The Lumberjack)
In honor of Black Liberation and Heritage month, former Black Panther Party member Ericka Huggins spoke at Humboldt State University on Feb. 17, 2015 and challenged students to find solutions to problems in their community.
The event, hosted by HSU’s Black Student Union, acknowledged the generations of revolutionary political activism and brought awareness to the social justice issues of the past and present that are prevalent in Black communities.
Huggins, who is currently a Sociology Professor at Merritt College, has a long history as an educator. She was the Director of the Oakland Community School; a community-run child development center and elementary school founded by the Black Panther Party.
Huggins’ visit began with a screening of the film Cracking the Codes: The Systems of Racial Inequity. Huggins then facilitated an interactive dialogue where the focus was getting people to understand that they have a crucial role in helping to change aspects that bother them.
“I hear a lot of complaining in here, but what are you going to do about it?” Huggins said.
This set the tone which got people thinking critically about different avenues for change–instead of feeling defeated by institutions or social constructs.
“I feel like she helped people with their train of thought. A lot of people were saying things with no solution,” said student Randy Stewart. “She got people to stop blurting stuff out before they speak and think ‘what’s a solution I could have?”
Many wanted Huggins to address the issues that underrepresented students of color face everyday on predominantly white campuses, gearing her lecture more towards Black liberation.
“I liked the film, but I wish that she would have talked to us more about what we, as students of color, are supposed to do in a space where white students are the majority and students of color are cast aside,” said Alejandra Aguilar, a second year history student at HSU.
Overall, Huggins’ message was well-received. Although some attendees didn’t agree with the way Huggins’ presentation seemed to be geared more towards a white audience, many still appreciated the insight and wisdom she brought with her to HSU.
Dr. John Johnson who is the Coordinator for the new African-American Center for Academic Excellence on campus, was in attendance at the event and thought Huggins’ visit was necessary.
“I felt her message was needed. Her content touched on things happening on campus, as far as the transitions the university is going through, trying to be more inclusive. I appreciated her presence and felt it was necessary to talk to all audiences.”