Judy Juanita is an American poet, novelist and playwright. She is a writing teacher at Laney College. In 1968, while attending San Francisco State, Juanita served as editor-in-chief of The Black Panther, the newspaper of the Black Panther Party. In her semi-autobiographical novel, Virgin Soul, (Viking, 2013), a black teen starts community college in Oakland, struggles to matriculate and then joins the Black Panther Party (BPP). The story of the female foot soldier in the black power movement, Virgin Soul exposes the unheralded women working behind-the-scenes in the BPP and the black student movement..
Juanita's writing is archived at Duke University in the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture, alongside the archives of student activists from SNCC.
Eleven of her plays are archived at the Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, Ohio State University (OSU), where her full-length play, "Theodicy," won a major prize in the Eileen Heckart Senior Play Competition 2008.
Juanita was born Judith Hart in Berkeley, California, and grew up in Oakland. At age 16, she began attending Oakland City College, transferring to San Francisco State University as a junior. She was a member of the Black Student Union. After Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale recruited at the university, she joined the BPP in 1967 and lived in one of their safe houses on Potrero Hill. while she edited The Black Panther, the Party's newspaper, and worked on the BPP's Free Breakfast for Children program. She received her BA in psychology and MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State.
Juanita attended the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley in 1992.
From 1992-2007, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, political theater in the parks, toured "Knocked Up" which she co-wrote with Tina Tree Murch. The play, a musical, was a commedia dell'arte: when a young villager becomes pregnant and is refused the morning-after pill, a mysterious comet causes all the males in the village to become pregnant. By play's end, they've come around to approving the RU486, as the morning after pill was called.
In 2012 she attended the Vermont Studio Center and Breadloaf writers' conferences. In 2013, Juanita's poem "Bling" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2015, her essay "The Gun as Ultimate Performance Poem" was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has written 17 plays that have been performed in the Bay Area, L.A., NYC, Winston-Salem, and Minneapolis.
A distinguished finalist in OSU's Non/Fiction Collection Prize 2016, her collection of essays is the account of the feminist foot soldier. DeFacto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland (EquiDistance Press, 2016) was a Book-of-the-Month selection in March, 2017, at Kirkus Reviews (where it also received a positive review), and at African Americans on the Move Book Club (AAMBC) in December, 2016. A lengthy critical review of the collection by poet-musician-activist Chris Stroffolino appears in Ishmael Reed's magazine KONCH in December, 2016.
In 2014 and 2015, Juanita's short story collection The High Cost of Freeways was a finalist in the Donna Tartt First Fiction Contest. Her short story "Cabbie" appears in Akashic Press' noir series, Oakland Noir, published in 2017.
- Tobar, Hector (April 19, 2013). "Judy Juanita and her 'Virgin Soul'". Los Angeles Times.
- Guthrie, Julian (July 1, 2013). "The girls' story of the Black Panthers". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Judy Juanita: A Long Time to Change". Guernica. June 17, 2013.
- Solomon, Akiba (December 31, 2016). "Women of the Black Panther Party Reflect on Today's Struggle, Staying Engaged and Why Trump's Win Might be a Good Thing". Colorlines.
- Kirkus reviews
- A Few Things Judy Juanita’s De Facto Feminism Got Me Thinking About
- Juanita's writings at The Weeklings