Tag Archives: Yuri Kochiyama

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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The White House Remembers Yuri Kochiyama

June 7, 2014

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Yesterday, the White House’s Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) posted this post on the White House’s official blog. The post was written by Kiran Ahuj, WHIAAPI’s Executive Director.

Today, we honor the legacy of Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American activist who dedicated her life to the pursuit of social justice, not only for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, but all communities of color.

Mary Yuriko Nakahara was born in 1921 in San Pedro, California. She and her family spent two years in an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas during World War II, and the similarities she saw between the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II and African Americans in the Jim Crow South inspired her to dedicate her life to activism on behalf of marginalized communities. In the early 1960s, Yuri and her husband Bill Kochiyama, a decorated veteran of the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the U.S. Army, enrolled in the Harlem “freedom schools” to learn about black history and culture. Soon after, Yuri began participating in sit-ins and inviting Freedom Riders to speak at weekly open houses in the family’s apartment. She was a strong voice in the campaign for reparations and a formal government apology for Japanese American internees through the Civil Liberties Act, which President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1988.

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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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10 examples of #AAPI’s rich history of resistance

January 15, 2014
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The Asian American Movement: protesters protest police brutality and racial profiling during the 1970’s (photo credit: Corky Lee). For a far better description of this photo and associated protests than I could provide, please read the fantastic comment from Gavin Huang in the comments section immediately following this post, as well as his post on the subject here.

In the wake of the #AsianPrivilege response hash-tag to #NotYourAsianSidekick and #BlackPowerYellowPeril, it appears as if (among other misguided ideas) there is a prevailing notion out there that, in contrast to other minorities, Asian Americans “lack a history of resistance” (or that we think we do), and that this invisibility and dearth of civil rights history actually confers upon the Asian American community a form of racial privilege.

Putting aside the second half of that assertion regarding privilege for a minute, there’s one other major problem: any argument that relies upon the assumption that Asian Americans lack a history of resistance is patently ahistorical.

Like really, really, really wrong. Like insultingly wrong.

After the jump, here are 10 examples of Asian American’s history of oppression and political resistance.

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