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Berkeley Talks: Women of the Black Panther Party

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 in October

three people sitting and talking on stage
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.

Read the transcript.

Follow Berkeley Talks, Berkeley News podcast that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley.

three people sitting and talking on stage

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 celebration of the new book Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party. 

“I knew that my big purpose was to learn how to love because I was raised in a community that was not loved,” says Ericka Huggins, who co-authored Comrade Sisters with photographer Stephen Shames.

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

“The school, by the way, was tuition-free, child-centered, three meals a day, parent-friendly, how about that? And we had a connection with Children’s Hospital. And we loved every child personally. We knew their full names, their parents’ names, their aunties’ and grandmothers’ names, if they were the ones caring for them. And we knew what they liked. And a hug was not a shameful thing. Tears were not shameful, whether they came from girls or boys. So, the way we loved the children was the way we had 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 most trusted photographer of the Black Panthers who wasn’t 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 were the women of the Black Panther Party,” says Shames. “They were really the soul, the heart of the party. Almost two-thirds of the members of the party were women. Women ran most of the programs in some of the chapters. The Panthers were really 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 Oct. 20, 2022, was hosted 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 Berkeley’s 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, the Fotovision endowment and ACC Art Books.

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


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