Last week, America lost a civil rights legend in Yuri Kochiyama. Kochiyama’s work inspired a generation of young activists — including many Asian American women like myself — towards social justice work.
Today, 18MillionRising is launching a petition that will be sent along with a formal written proposal to the US Postal Service’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, asking that Yuri Kochiyama be commemorated in an official stamp. This form of memorial seems meaningful; Yuri Kochiyama strongly believed in the power of mail as a form of political outreach, and reportedly only wanted to receive stamps on holidays so she could continue to send flyers for her many political and social justice causes.
Act Now! If you agree that Kochiyama belongs on a commemorative stamp, please sign 18MillionRising’s petition requesting that the US Postal Service issue a commemorative Yuri Kochiyama stamp and share the petition with your friends!
Yesterday marked another grim incident in this nation’s ongoing litany of gun violence. A man, identified as 26-year-old former LA Fitness janitor Aaron Ybarra walked into Seattle Pacific University’s Otto Miller Hall and opened fire with a shotgun at point-blank range, killing one person and wounding three others.
When I first heard about the incident yesterday, I scoured the web, hoping that the victims or the perpetrator were not Asian American. Something about Elliot Rodger — who is biracially Asian American — and his deadly shooting spree in Isla Vista had me hyper-sensitive. I just couldn’t help thinking: “no, please, our community can’t take any more tragedy”.
I wish I had been right.
Yesterday’s single fatality at SPU — who was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center — has now been identified as 19-year-old Paul Lee, a Korean American freshman from Portland who reportedly enjoyed dancing and “eating delicious food”. Friends and family remember Lee as a “lively” person who made the classroom fun.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Lee family. The loss of yet another young man — barely older than a child — by gun violence, wounds deeply. That he is now the fourth Asian American man to die in relation to a mass shooting on a college campus in the span of two weeks is unfathomable and senseless.
Over the weekend, I posted about the death of beloved civil rights activist and beloved icon Yuri Kochiyama. Here is the Kochiyama Family’s statement, issued in conjunction with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center:
The Kochiyama family has also set up a Facebook page called “Remembering Yuri Kochiyama“. Please like it to stay abreast of information from the family regarding a public memorial for Yuri Kochiyama.
I’m hearing reports through my networks that Yuri Kochiyama, the incredible civil rights hero whose life of dedicated work to social justice inspired a generation of young activists including myself, passed away last night at the age of 93. The reports are still unconfirmed nationally, although sources close to Kochiyama’s family are confirming her passing.
Yuri Kochiyama was a hero and an icon to me.
Yuri Kochiyama was a survivor of a Japanese American internment camp in rural Arkansas, where she encountered the heinous racism of the Jim Crow South. In an interview with Kochiyama published in Fred Ho‘s Legacy to Liberation, Revolutionary Worker writes that it was the parallels between her own experiences as a Japanese American with the mistreatment of Black People under Jim Crow that first propelled Kochiyama towards social justice work. Throughout her life, Yuri Kochiyama worked as a member of both the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Movement, but she also devoted her energies to causes like freeing political prisoners domestically and around the world. She is often cited for her work with the Black liberation movement, through which she had a brief friendship with Malcolm X. She was at Malcolm X’s side when he died of a gunshot wound on February 21, 1965.
But, for me, what makes Yuri Kochiyama a legend and an inspiration was the philosophy that fueled her life of dedication to social justice efforts.
Hon. Mary I. Yu has been appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Washington Supreme Court, making her the state’s first Asian American and first openly gay Supreme Court justice. Yu makes this step after spending 14 years serving on the King County Superior Court, which she was appointed to by then-governor Gary Locke in 2000, the nation’s first governor of Asian descent.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!