Category Archives: Awesome Asians

Sign this petition to honour Yuri Kochiyama with a US Postal Stamp!

June 9, 2014
Photo credit: 18MillionRising
Photo credit: 18MillionRising

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!

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One Asian American victim, another an Asian American hero, in SPU shooting

June 6, 2014
Paul Lee, 19, in a photo posted on a class website.
Paul Lee, 19, in a photo posted on a class website.

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.

On Facebook, Albert Lee, Paul Lee’s brother, posted about his anguish:

“At a time when we feel a level of loss, grief, and pain we couldn’t have ever imagined, we are so overwhelmed by all of the thoughts and prayers from the community.

“At this moment all we can ask is to continue to remember Paul and all that he has left behind for us. Thank you all for blanketing us with your kind words, we will thank you all individually in due time.

“Paul, you handsome shekki, we miss you and love you more than you know. Keep dancin’ in heaven.”

The term “shekki” is an expletive in Korean, but between friends it’s used as an endearment.

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.

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In Memory of Yuri: Kochiyama Family & UCLA Asian American Studies Center issues statement

June 3, 2014

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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:

Life-long activist Yuri Kochiyama passed away peacefully in her sleep in Berkeley, California on the morning of Sunday, June 1 at the age of 93. Over a span of more than 50 years, Yuri worked tirelessly for social and political change through her activism in support of social justice and civil and human rights movements. Yuri was born on May 19, 1921 in San Pedro, California and spent two years in a concentration camp in Jerome, Arkansas during World War II. After the war, she moved to New York City and married Bill Kochiyama, a decorated veteran of the all-Japanese American 442nd combat unit of the U.S. Army.

Yuri’s activism started in Harlem in the early 1960’s, where she participated in the Harlem Freedom Schools, and later, the African American, Asian American and Third World movements for civil and human rights and in the opposition against the Vietnam War. In 1963, she met Malcolm X. Their friendship and political alliance radically changed her life and perspective. She joined his group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, to work for racial justice and human rights. Over the course of her life, Yuri was actively involved in various movements for ethnic studies, redress and reparations for Japanese Americans, African Americans and Native Americans, political prisoners’ rights, Puerto Rican independence and many other struggles.

Yuri is survived by her living children — Audee, Eddie, Jimmy and Tommy, grandchildren — Zulu, Akemi, Herb, Ryan, Traci, Maya, Aliya, Christopher, and Kahlil and great-grandchildren — Kai, Leilani, Kenji, Malia and Julia.”

Yuri Kochiyama’s stint as a scholar in residence at UCLA in 1998 enriched the life of our Center and the campus. Those connections deepened as we were honored to work with her on the publication of her memoir, Passing It On (UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2004). The Center is also honored to house some of Yuri Kochiyama’s papers relating to the Asian American movement. We are grateful to be part of preserving her legacy for future generations.

Our condolences go out to her family and friends. Rest in power and peace.

Sincerely,

David K. Yoo
Director & Professor

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.

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Rest in Power, Yuri Kochiyama: A Civil Rights Hero Who Inspired a Generation

June 1, 2014

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Yuri Kochiyama speaks at an anti-war rally in Central Park in 1968.
Yuri Kochiyama speaks at an anti-war rally in Central Park in 1968. Photo credit: The Kochiyama Family / UCLA Asian American Studies Center

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.

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Judge Mary Yu becomes 1st #AAPI, 1st openly gay judge on WA Supreme Court

May 2, 2014
Hon. Mary I. Yu has been tapped to sit on the WA Supreme Court, making her the first AAPI and first openly gay judge to sit on the state's higher court.
Hon. Mary I. Yu has been tapped to sit on the WA Supreme Court, making her the first AAPI and first openly gay judge to sit on the state’s higher court.

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.

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