January 17 marked the 45th anniversary of the deaths of two 1960’s Black Panther leaders. Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and John Huggins were two powerful leaders within the Los Angeles branch of the Black Panther organization and movement. They also happened to be two High Potential program students at UCLA. It was at UCLA’s Campbell Hall, home of various ethnic organizations, where on January 17, 1969, both Carter and Huggins lost their lives, after an altercation took place with the rival black revolutionary organization US resulted in them being shot and killed. There were hundreds of Black students at this location for a meeting to develop a criteria for the formation and development of a African American Studies program at UCLA.
This altercation was a result of the ideological conflict and the power struggles between both organizations in reference to the vanguard of the revolution. This power struggle transferred over to the issue of which of the two organizations was going to have directorship and implement the criteria for the newly established African American Studies Program at UCLA for close to a year before the assassinations. The commemoration of the 45th anniversary of Carter and Huggins death was put together by that Afrikan Student Union (ASU) and the Academic Advancement Program (AAP) inside Campbell Hall, as it has taken place since 2008. This event was less about talking about what occurred that unfaithful day to more about discussing what should be taken from their activism and what should be done to continue their legacy on campus. Two African American students shed their blood for something much bigger than themselves, and this calls for a commemoration but also for a time to reflect on the struggles that others have put forth before us so we could have what we do around this campus. The panel included: Elaine Brown, the only female Black Panther Party leader, and the 2008 Green Party Presidential Candidate. Ericka Huggins, the widow and co-leader of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party during the time of John Huggins’ death. Lamar Lyons, was UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) President and Community Service Commissioner. He was also part of the High Potential Program during the assassination. Vara Bacoum, an Alum of UCLA ’13 who is committed to social justice and personal transformation.
Their deaths may have resulted from a dispute over ideological differences and power struggles. Nonetheless, during this commemoration, their deaths seemed to be representing a struggle that goes beyond a power struggle for directorship over a program. To many minority students, their deaths represented the ever-rising need for equality and representation on prestigious universities like UCLA.
One of the major topics of the events was effective organizing strategies for community empowerment and Black Liberation. This in turn reminded many students of the need for an African American Studies Department. Many asked themselves and the attendees: How could it have been 45 years since the dispute over establishing a curriculum that reflected the history of the black community and addressed their interest and yet no African American Department had yet to be established? They gave their lives for wanting to put together a curriculum for an African American studies program, and many present at the event believed that the least that we can do is rename Campbell Hall to Carter-Huggins Hall or Building.
The Afrikan Student Union ended the commemoration with the tea light candle lighting by the Carter-Huggins that is near the main entrance of the Campbell Hall where nearly 100 attendees sparked their candles and placed them by the stone in remembrance of these two young student leaders.
Many students of different racial and ethnic background attended this event and came together to address the underrepresentation of minority communities at UCLA. They called for the need for a campus that looked as diverse as that room of the event. Many others responded to the question raised by a student of “What should be the next step?” One of the most memorable response referred to the need of Brown and Black alliances on campus and in our communities because “at the end we may have different battles but we still have the same struggles,” as the Latino responder stated.
The ultimate response to this question was given by the ASU when they advertised a meeting that was to be held this Wednesday January 22 where they would discuss the Private Prison De-Investment Bill that is in the works right now as well as what will be the next step to remember and continue the legacy of two young men who stood for something greater than them.
…“Educate to Liberate”