Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama has died of natural causes in Berkeley, Calif., at the age of 93. The lifelong champion of civil rights causes in the black, Latino, Native American and Asian-American communities passed away peacefully in her sleep on Sunday morning, according to her family.

Born in 1921 as Mary Yuriko Nakahara, Kochiyama spent the early years of her life in San Pedro, Calif., a small town south of Los Angeles. Months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, she and her family were forced to relocate to internment camps along with tens of thousands of other Japanese-Americans. She met her late husband Bill Kochiyama, who served with other Japanese-American soldiers in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, at the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas, where she spent two years.

The couple married after World War II and moved to start their family in New York City. Living in housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors inspired her interest in the civil rights movement. Kochiyama held weekly open houses for activists in the family’s apartment, where she taped newspaper clippings to the walls and kept piles of leaflets on the kitchen table. “Our house felt like it was the movement 24/7,” said her eldest daughter Audee Kochiyama-Holman.

Her brief but formative friendship with Malcolm X, whom she first met in 1963, helped radicalize her activism. Kochiyama began focusing her work on black nationalism and was with Malcolm X during his final moments. Minutes after gunmen fired at Malcolm X in 1965 during his last speech in New York City, she rushed towards him and cradled his head on her lap. A black-and-white photo in Life magazine shows Kochiyama peering worriedly through horn-rimmed glasses at Malcolm X’s bullet-riddled body.

In the 1980s, she and her husband pushed 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. Her continued dedication to social causes inspired younger generations of activists, especially within the Asian-American community.

"She was not your typical Japanese-American person, especially a nisei," or a second-generation Japanese-American, said Tim Toyama, Kochiyama’s second cousin who wrote a one-act play about her relationship with Malcolm X.

"She was definitely ahead of her time, and we caught up with her."


It’s not stated in the article but I read a while back that she was heavily involved in and a member of the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party, Afro-American Unity, Asian American for Action and countless other organizations. RIP Kochiyama 

"The Black Panthers have never viewed such paramilitary groups as the Ku Klux Klan or the Minutemen as particularly dangerous. The real danger comes from highly organized Establishment forces -the local police, the National Guard, and the United States military. They were the ones who devastated Watts and killed innocent people. In comparison to them the paramilitary groups are insignificant. In fact, these groups are hardly organized at all. It is the uniformed men who are dangerous and who come into our communities every day to commit violence against us, knowing that the laws will protect them.” 

- Huey P. Newton, Sacramento and the “Panther Bill”


Angela Davis and Assata Shakur’s Lawyer  Discuss the New Threat against Assata Shakur

I always carried lawbooks in my car. Sometimes, when a policeman was harassing a citizen, I would stand off a little and read the relevant portions of the penal code in a loud voice to all within hearing distance. In doing this, we were helping to educate those who gathered to observe these incidents. If the policeman arrested the citizen and took him to the station, we would follow and immediately post bail. Many community people could not believe at first that we had only their interest at heart. Nobody had ever given them any support or assistance when the police harassed them, but here we were, proud Black men, armed with guns and a knowledge of the law. Many citizens came right out of jail and into the Party, and the statistics of murder and brutality by policemen in our communities fell sharply.
—  Huey P. Newton, “patrolling, from the the Huey P. Newton Reader

Ericka Huggins, activist and founder of the Black Panther Party in New Haven, Connecticut at the time of The New Haven Black Panther trials in 1970. At age 18, she became a leader in the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party with her husband John Huggins. Three weeks after the birth of their daughter, John Huggins was killed and Huggins was widowed. After returning her husband’s body to New Haven, Connecticut, Ericka opened a Panther chapter there.

January 26, 1944: Birthday of Comrade Angela Yvonne Davis, former political prisoner, Marxist-feminist theorist and prison abolition activist.

I wish Angela Davis a great birthday. She has been a major inspiration in my life and has done incredible work on so many issues. I still hope she will say something about the way her good name was exploited by Mayor Bill de Blasio, killer cop Bill Bratton and the New York Democratic establishment at last week’s Martin Luther King Day event in Brooklyn: http://bknation.org/2014/01/letter-angela-davis/


Some more amazing artwork by Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party Minister for Culture. 

Douglas, responsible for much of the iconic imagery of the Black Panther Party is confirmed to speak at Marxism 2015. He will be speaking on ‘Revolution, Art and Power’ at 1pm on the Friday of Marxism 2015. There will also be an exhibition of his work at the conference. This is some good news if you’re an artist, graphic designer or a general lefty.  Douglas is one of the most influential and culturally significant artists of the 20th century, so it’s exciting that he’ll be speaking about his art in Australia. Marxism Conference takes place over Easter in Melbourne, so block those four days out in your calendar. Tickets are available from the website now: www.marxismconference.org