Berkeley Talks: The Women of the Black Panther Party

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From left: Judy Juanita, Madalynn Rucker, and Ericka Huggins discuss their time with the Black Panther Party during an event at UC Berkeley in October 2022.

In Berkeley Talks episode 161, Judy Juanita, Madalynn Rucker, and Ericka Huggins discuss their time with the Black Panther Party at a UC Berkeley event held in October 2022, in celebration of the new book Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party.

“I knew my big goal was to learn to love because I was raised in a community that was not loved,” says Ericka Huggins, co-author comrades sisters with photographer Stephen Shames.

Huggins, who was director of the Oakland Community School led by the Black Panther Party, continues:

“By the way, school was free, child-centered, three meals a day, parent-friendly, how about that? And we had a link to Children’s Hospital. And we love each child personally. We knew their full names, their parents’ names, their aunts’ and grandparents’ names, if they were the ones who took care of them. And we knew what they liked. And a hug was not a shameful thing. Tears were not shameful, whether from girls or boys. So the way we loved children was the way we wanted to be loved.

“I could see the impact on the future generation’s understanding that I came from a generation that didn’t have what we were offering. And it worked.”

Shames, who became the Black Panthers’ most trusted photographer who was not a member, took behind-the-scenes photos – some of which are in Comrade Sisters – that other photographers couldn’t get close enough to capture.

“One of the things that really impressed me was the women in the Black Panther Party,” says Shames. “They really were the soul, the heart of the party. Nearly two-thirds of party members were women. Women ran most of the programs in some of the chapters. The Panthers really were one of the most progressive organizations at the time, in terms of the role of women in their party.”

This conversation, which took place on October 20, 2022, was presented by the National Association of Black Journalists at UC Berkeley and the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Documentary Photography at Berkeley Journalism.

It was co-sponsored by the Berkeley Department of History, the Department of African American Studies, the Department of American Studies, the Othering & Belonging Institute, the American Cultures Center, the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Department of Ethnic Studies, by Donation Fotovision and ACC Art Books.

Listen to the full conversation at Berkeley Talks episode 161: “The Women of the Black Panther Party.”

Watch a video of the conversation below.

On October 20, 2022, Ericka Huggins, Judy Juanita, and Madalynn Rucker discuss their time with the Black Panther Party, in celebration of the new book. Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party, co-authored by Huggins and photographer Stephen Shames.

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