Skip to main content

FunTimes Magazine

Philadelphia celebrates the history and contributions of the women of the Black Panther Party

Mar 29, 2023 10:00AM ● By Karen Warrington

March 31, 1972, Oakland, California, USA: Testing for Sickle Cell Anemia at Community Survival Conference. Source:, from Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party, Stephen Shames

The co-authors of the book Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party were celebrated by the Philadelphia Women’s Commission and the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization of Women toward the close of Women’s History month and against the backdrop of those attempting to delete the Black history. 

The book, co-authored by photographer Stephen Shames and Erika Huggins, presents 110 black and white candid photos of the women of the BPP who were committed to supporting the party’s social, economic and political agenda. 

Ericka Huggins, Source: Official Website

Huggins was an early BPP member and leader. She was also a political prisoner and continues as a human rights activist today. She says, “So many women who joined the party 40 to 50 years ago have since transitioned from this life. Many remembrances, written by their children or by their Comrade Sisters, are gathered here to celebrate their commitment to their party and their people.” 

The Black Panther Party (BPP) was founded in late 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, students at Merritt College in Oakland, California. Beginning with community police patrols and a Free Breakfast for School Children program, the BPP expanded beyond Oakland to many major cities across the nation, including Philadelphia. While promoting self defense, the BPP also sponsored innovative community-based services, including the children’s complimentary breakfast program, community health clinics and educational and housing programs. The BBP was active until 1982.

Book cover image.

Through its photos, first-person narratives and art, the book focuses on the wide-reaching contribution, commitment and sacrifice of the women members of the BPP. Bobby Seale gave Co-author and photographer Shames access to BPP activities when he was a student at Berkeley. His behind-the-scenes and close-to-the-action photos provide an insider’s look at the determined action of the women of the BPP. 

As outlined in the book, the BPP was targeted by the FBI and the police. In 1979 John Huggins, the leader of the BPP Los Angeles chapter and Erika Huggins’ husband, was killed just three weeks after their daughter was born. In 1969, J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, described the BPP as “The greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” Under Hoover’s direction, the FBI sabotaged the BPP with Cointelpro, an illegal and covert program that infiltrated, surveilled, harassed and criminalized the party. 

It’s estimated that six out of ten Panther Party members were women. And, with great respect, Comrade Sisters presents the stories and images of the named and unnamed women of the BPP. Huggins says, “We have made icons of a select few of these women, but they all deserve their flowers. After all, the seeds they have planted continue to bloom in our communities and also in our freedom dreams.” 

Huggins adds, “This book is a very late, very humble shout of gratitude to those who have been unknown and unsung for so many years.” 

Related articles:

The Assassination of Fred Hampton and the Raid That Changed Chicago

Many claimed that Hampton would have ended up becoming an integral member of the Black Panthers’ central committee, had he not been targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program Read More » 


Who are the Black Civil Rights Leaders we should follow

Who are the Black Civil Rights Leaders we should follow?

These young activists, organizers, and thinkers have pushed for racial justice and equality, using their platforms to amplify marginalized communities' voices and demand change. Read More » 


The Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on modern-day activism

The Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on modern-day activism.

The Black Lives Matter (B.L.M.) movement has been at the forefront of the fight for racial justice and equality in recent years. Read More » 


Youth and the Revolution: How the Young Population Contributed to Many Historical Moments

This article will look at four revolutions led by Black teens that changed the course of history and paved the way for a more just and inclusive society. Read More » 


 Karen Warrington has had a decades long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, performing artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. She is committed to being a voice for the African Diaspora.

Read more from Karen Warrington: 

The B word

The “B” word

It’s Women’s History Month, and it may be the appropriate time to discuss how and why so many Black women have become so comfortable using the “B” word Read More » 


A Warning from Black History Month Founder Carter G Woodson

A Warning from Black History Month Founder Carter G. Woodson

“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of extermination.” Read More » 


America are we numb to continuing gun violence

America, are we numb to continuing gun violence?

Just this week I viewed the media coverage of two mass shootings where 10 people died and five were critically injured. Read More »