A former leader for the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panthers Party and political prisoner for her involvement with the group shared her experience and wisdom March 14 at the 4th Annual Women’s Conference organized by Associated Students, Inc.
Ericka Huggins spoke to the 300 audience members at the conference in Jack Adams Hall to join her in a discussion of equality and empowerment. She examined race, gender issues and her personal experience with social justice activism.
“I think we are afraid of having conversations where we will be critiqued or where someone is vulnerable because of their ignorance,” Huggins said. “We need to talk about everything if we are going to talk about anything. We have a collective wisdom that is profound.”
Huggins was invited to speak by the director of the Women’s Center, senior Shani Winston, who said Huggins’ experience and message fit perfectly with the conference’s theme, Empowered Women Empower Women. Winston first attended the event three years ago and has organized it for the past two years.
“This conference is an event that changed my life,” Winston said. “It made me realize a lot about myself and society, it opened my mind. I want people to open their minds and work together at the conference.”
The conference was composed of speakers, a discussion panel, workshops and a closing ceremony. Activities and educational workshops provided information about violence against transgender women of color, journaling through yoga and igniting women in politics.
Huggins said that current systems in place in the world are inherently old and biased by race and gender. She said it was important to create an open and honest dialogue to address injustices that women and minorities face.
Taking the initiative to conduct research and discuss important issues was essential, Huggins said. She emphasized the importance of eliminating labels and stereotypes and working together across different causes.
“I’m not only African-American, I am a woman,” Huggins said. “I’m not only that, a woman is my partner, and not only that, I’m a mom, a grandmother, a sociologist, a teacher and a meditator. All of these things are a part of me and we look at human beings in little boxes and our causes tend to be in boxes as well.”
Volunteer Julio Leyva said he appreciated how truthful and easy it was to understand Huggins’ message.
“I liked how she said if you are really passionate about something, you need to be visible and stand up,” Leyva said.
Sophomore Onyeomachi Okoro volunteered at the event for this first time this year and said she was excited to be involved with the conference.
“Through all the adversity we face, it’s great seeing there are still women willing to put themselves at the forefront of important issues,” Okoro said.