Tonight I had the most wonderful opportunity to listen to former Black Panther Ericka Huggins speak @ UCLA about the Black Panther Community School in Oakland and how we as educators can create liberatory spaces within the classroom. She spoke on how the BPP school was created by the need to free young minds from the colonial influence of public schools. During the first 3-4 years of the school, almost all of the teachers, administrators, and staff, including Ericka, were on public assistance in order to meet basic needs, as they volunteered their time at the school. She engaged the audience and spent most of the talk addressing questions and comments from the audience instead of just talking, which was a really beautiful moment. When folks would ask her advice on something, she always turned the question around to ask them, “Well, what would you do?” She’d then engage that person in such a personal, intimate manner, something I’ve never seen a distinguished speaker do.

A few of us got to sit and have a nice, intimate dinner with her and pick her mind about some of the nuances of running a truly independent, revolutionary, and decolonial school that was community-based. She spoke of the lack of love and compassion in schools, as well as the lack of love and compassion in our teacher training; this spoke so deeply to me, as I believe that a classroom, first and formost, should be a space of deep love. Love for another, love for oneself. I think that my greatest achievement as an educator was creating a classroom environment that was founded on the one very simple concept: each one of my students was my people, and I deeply love my people. As Immortal Technique so rightly put it, “My revolution is born out of love for my people, not hatred for others.”

As a speaker, she is extremely engaging, and sitting down with a dozen or so other folks during dinner, I found us clinging to every word she spoke. Her wisdom is not just as a revolutionary member of the Black Panther Party, but also that of a Black woman whose wisdom stems from decades of activism as a mother, a Black Panther, and an educator in a society that regularly demeans and marginalizes Black women to the lowest rungs.

What an honor. I doubt I’ll ever meet such an inspiring and loving figure the rest of my life. My itch to get back in the classroom has now multiplied ten-fold! I feel so inspired to continue supporting and creating decolonial spaces for our youth of color, and emancipate them from a system that looks to exploit their labor, their love, their minds, and their bodies.

All power to the people!

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