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47 years after Black Panther killings, a correspondence heals old wounds

Julie Caine
Watani Stiner in the gardens behind his home


In January 1969, two members of the Black Panther Party – Alprentice ‘Bunchy’ Carter and John Huggins – were shot and killed on the campus of UCLA.

Larry 'Watani' Stiner and his brother were arrested and convicted for the murders. They were members of Organization US – a black nationalist group active at the time. The brothers were sent to San Quentin State Prison.  

In 1974, they escaped. Watani fled to South America, where he lived for two decades. Eventually, he turned himself in to U.S. authorities, and was returned to San Quentin in 1994.

While there, he began a correspondence with Ericka Huggins, a former Black Panther Party leader, and the wife of one of the men he was accused of killing.

Watani Stiner was released from prison last year. He’s starting his life over as a free man in Oakland, not far from where Ericka Huggins lives. But the conditions of his parole prohibit any contact between them.

KALW’s Julie Caine spoke with both of them separately, and wove together this story about the healing power of dialogue.

WATANI STINER: My journey of love and sacrifice for my own children has opened up my heart and allowed me to feel the emptiness you must have felt on that dreadful day you learned of John's death; the confusion, the questions, the pain, and the realization that your daughter would never get to know her father. For that, I am truly sorry. No words could ever fill the space left in a father's absence.

Please click the audio player above to hear the full story.