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

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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.

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

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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.

Continue reading “Rest in Power, Yuri Kochiyama: A Civil Rights Hero Who Inspired a Generation”

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

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

Vijay Seshadri is 1st Asian American to win Pulitzer Prize in Poetry!

Vijay Seshadri, poet and writer. Photo credit: Cold Front Magazine
Vijay Seshadri, poet and writer. Photo credit: Cold Front Magazine

(H/T: The Aerogram)

Vijay Seshadri, a Brooklyn-based poet and writer, has become the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, awarded for his book of collected poems, 3 Sections. Seshadri, who was born in Bangalore, immigrated to Columbus, Ohio at the age of five with his family.

3 Sections is Seshadri’s third book; the first two are Wild Kingdom and The Long Meadow. In awarding Seshadri’s 3 Sections the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry this year, the Pulitzer committee wrote:

[3 Sections is] a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.

You can purchase 3 Sections from Amazon here.

Correction: An earlier version of this post neglected to note that Seshadri is the first to win a Pulitzer in Poetry; Asian Americans have previously won the Pulitzer in other categories.

3 videos of BD Wong singing that are just kind of awesome

Here are 3 videos of Tony Award-winning actor BD Wong (@BD_Wong) that you need to see.

1. As Father Ray Mukada, BD Wong sings a Tori Amos song for a narrative segment of the musical episode of HBO’s Oz (Season 5 Episode 6, ‘Variety’)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbo-snzC3g0

2. BD Wong reprises his Tony Award-winning role as M Butterfly opposite John Lithgow, this time with a politically aware twist. If you’re having trouble playing the embedded video, try the direct link to the video on YouTube here.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=040OgeqmIY8

3. If your heart doesn’t melt at the end of this video, you are officially broken. Sit through the first four minutes; it’s totally worth it. I promise.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsugtM-SePI