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not asking for freedom—but free: Ericka Huggins' poems from prison

Ericka Huggins15 October 2016

not asking for freedom—but free: Ericka Huggins' poems from prison

October 15th marks the 50th anniversary of the 1966 founding of the Black Panther Party. In observance of the occasion, we present below a selection of poems written by Ericka Huggins, a prominent member of the Party first in Los Angeles and then in New Haven, during her two-year imprisonment awaiting trial in New Haven, alongside Bobby Seale and others.

These poems are collected in 
If They Come in the Morning...: Voices of Resistance, edited by Angela Davis. 

Oil pastel drawing and watercolor painting of Ericka Huggins on the witness stand, by Robert Templeton. via Wikimedia Commons. 



plain i am
ericka, 22,
fuzzy hair
droopy eyes
long feet
                 i love people
                 love nature
                 love love
i am a revolutionary
nothing special
            one soul
            one life  willing
                         to give it
              ready to die ...


unspoken words
feelings repressed because
   the  prison  walls  are  also
           soul  walls
if  only  all  barriers  could  be  removed
   and  we  could  walk/  talk/  sing
           be ...
   free  of  all  psychological,  spiritual
              political, economic
all of  us  all the freedom lovers of
      the world  but  especially
          right now—prisoners.


21 december 1970
7 p.m. niantic


for paula:
    (who ran from the camp
    and was eventually caught)

    hopes that render me speechless
    fly through my soul
    the reality of now is
too much to accept the
   racism, fascism and oppression
   we suffer / have suffered is 
   numbing my soul
if it is true that they 
have stifled your attempt
to breathe air and see 
life and be a part of the 
chaos that is the streets
then i cry inside 
because no one will 
       understand outside tears 
       for you—or those like you—
       strange it is for you for i only 
know  your  face  and soul   personalities
                                         don't matter ...
    but that's good enough      you are a 
        part of me sister-love     the part of me
     that has been and will one day be ...
         every door is not locked


29 december 1970
after 9 p.m.


love spelled the same but meaning 
            spiritually much more
                meaning that we realize the creative
            forces to be energy  and  that we as a
               part of that must
                  come together
wow—there are tears in my laughter


17 december, 6 p.m.
niantic prison* 

reflections on Sunday:

sounds that come from the soul are always 
   the same
              open sounds
the kind that reach out and touch—
that's what our sisters did / minimum
touching maximum / showing oppression
              and  the  wish  for  its
       removal ...
    feeling those sounds
    seeing them felt on others
    watching faces smile
    really smile for the first time in months—
getting high—on the natural power of the 
people to resist/to smile/to laugh/to sing/
              even here!!
wild hair, funky guitar
long hair funky voice (someone said
       bessie smith came to mind)
       hair—all lengths, legs, arms, smiles, music—
              SISTERS—and us ...
       raggedy peacots, cotton dressed, rocking,

              enjoying it—
              crying too—even if not too many
let the tears fall free
... us—black/brown/white/poor—SISTERS
and it was all a total exchange
               of energy
even if we did not share words 
we all knew their soul-sounds were
we understand
we know 
we can see what amerika is doing
to you—mother/daughter/child/woman
   of oppression—

we can see, they sang
and our voices answered their guitars,
horns  flute-voice-cowbell-tambourine  de-
mand for freedom with an unspoken right on
... a feeling there that one day—soon—
  all people will be free ... and
              we left
able to smile (for a moment) ...
til we returned to
rules that degrade
schedules that destroy sanity
racism that they cannot see
sexism that rapes us of our womanhood ...

and the locks, keys, windows, walls, doors, 
    bribes that harden our hearts and
chain our souls ...
    the time
        must be

On Sunday, the 13th of December, the New Haven Women's Liberation Rock Band played a concert at Niantic State Prison.


   the oldness of new things
   fascinate me like a new
   feeling about love about people
   snow, highways that
sparkle  at  night, talk, 
laughter ...
that old longing for freedom
   that this place constantly
renews—it all makes
me know that humankind
has longed to be free ever forever
since its break from the
   maybe the longing for
   freedom wil soon make
   others homesick for our
   natural state in / with
   earth, air, fire, water
               but living
               not dead
            not asking for freedom—
            but free— 


for connie, a rollingstone

   if there is cosmic beauty
   then your face holds it
   if there is human understanding 
then your soul is capable of it 
if a mind ever thought of freedom
yours has flown to where freedom
lives and has drifted back
here to tell your body about it
and you long for it 
                 i can see it in your eyes
                 aquarius sister-love
                 i can see it  ...  you
                 must know that one
                 day we will all 


whiz, whir, spin
flow melt fly
              be ... but not until
       the people are free
       not until there is time 
       to take time to be free
if that makes sense 
                        free  to  exchange  energy
                        productively create.

                 i must not forget that i can
             not love everyone now, that putting
          the real truth into practice now will only 
      disillusion those who take it for its verbal value 
  i must wait to really smile inside and pass it on 
  i must reject the silly feeling to jump, scream, enjoy the
disoriented as it is now—not until we have all evolved more
not until there are no more incarnations of hitler unevolved 
not until the racism/ oppression that has raped our souls
has been destroyed then we can all whiz, whir, spin 
                                             flow, melt, fly 
                                                 be ...


for sam a brother* / friend of the people
i remember now that sam used to call me sweet sister
and his voice had a ring to it like music / sort of a 
soft-fast-hardworking voice (always a smile to it tho)
       that's how his soul was—soft yet strong 

fast, yet not by bypassing the 
needs of the people / the FREE-dom of the people / 
       hardworking—yes he was 
the sweat engraved in the issues of our
paper—in good times / in hard, bitter, bad times
       he is not/ nor will be forgotten—he was
too symbolic of all we stand for dedication, 
       love for the people self less ness
seems as tho he was taken away so unnecessarily 
seems as tho we've got a lot to learn in this struggle of
seems as tho this country, amerikkka, wants to wipe out 
    all the samuel napiers 
    jonathan jacksons
    bobby seales of the world
seems as tho we have a WHOLE LOT of work to do
       love to give 
       freedom to give. Good brother
...  i cannot be there/ bobby cannot so—on that, I place 
a kiss on your forehead and a dandelion in your hand
(a dandelion because they grow wild/free/rebellious over
              the earth)
(like the people—poor people/ oppressed people.)
... this may be said many times, but it is sincere—
... you will not be forgotten, we love you, sweet brother
    we love you/


*Sam Napier was murdered by police agents in New York City, April 17, 1971. He was a member of the Black Panther Party, and circulation manager for the Party's Intercommunal News Service. He leaves a wife, Pauline Napier, and two children, Stag and Huey. 

Filed under: black-liberation, black-lives-matter, blackhistorymonth, literature, poetry, prison