So, transform yourself first…Because you are young and have dreams and want to do something meaningful, that in itself, makes you our future and our hope. Keep expanding your horizon, decolonize your mind, and cross borders.
—  Yuri Kochiyama

Salute to Sister Soldier Yuri Kochiyama!

Born May 19, 1921 (93 years young and strong)
An extraordinary Japanese American woman who spoke out and fought shoulder-to-shoulder with African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Whites for social justice, civil rights, and prisoners and women’s rights in the U.S. and internationally for over half a century. A prolific writer and speaker on human rights, Kochiyama has spoken at over 100 colleges and universities and high schools in the U.S. and Canada.

“Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students. Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.” - Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese-American activist (May 19, 1921 - June 1, 2014)

So, transform yourself first…Because you are young and have dreams and want to do something meaningful, that in itself, makes you our future and our hope. Keep expanding your horizon, decolonize your mind, and cross borders.
—  Yuri Kochiyama

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 

Watch on

The word on twitter is that legendary civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama just passed away. She dedicated her life to a variety of political causes, including freeing political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, and achieving reparations for the victims of Japanese American internment. Kochiyama held Malcolm X in her arms as he lay dying.

Here’s a reading from Sandra Oh a few years ago, in which Kochiyama describes the camps her family were forced into.

May she rest in power.

I asked Yuri, “How do I do this? How do I live a political life with motherhood?” I was exhausted, but Yuri made it seem so easy.

“This,” she said, gesturing to my daughter in her lap, “is what you do. You just take your daughter everywhere, like I did with my kids – protests, rallies, long late-night planning meetings. We take our children with us and they grow up to be good people, people who care about the community. And she will learn what kind of woman her mother is by watching you work in the movement.”


That 1963 disappearance was a scandal. She had been the most beloved of film stars, her handsome face, accepting smile, known to all. And then, suddenly, rudely, without a word of apology, she was going to disappear—to retire.

Here, where the stars hang on, voluntary retirement is unknown, particularly for one the caliber of Setsuko Hara. She had become an ideal: men wanted to marry someone like her; women wanted to be someone like her.

This was because on the screen she reconciled her life as real people cannot. Whatever her role in films—daughter, wife, or mother—she played a woman who at the same time, somehow, was herself. Her social roles did not eclipse that individual self, our Setsuko.

— Donald Richie, Japanese Portraits

Setsuko Hara
Born June 17, 1920

Yuri Kochiyama is a Japanese American human rights activist, but often remembered for her work in The Black Panther Party.

In 1960, Kochiyama and her spouse moved to Harlem in New York City and joined the Harlem Parents Committee. She became acquainted with Malcolm X and was a member of his Organization of Afro-American Unity. She was also present at Malcolm X’s assassination on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying.

In 1977, Kochiyama joined the group of Puerto Ricans that took over the Statue of Liberty to draw attention to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.

Over the years, Kochiyama has dedicated herself to various causes, such as the rights of political prisoners, freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal, nuclear disarmament, and reparations to Japanese Americans who were interned during the war.

In 2005, Kochiyama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize through the “1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005” project.

Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students. Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.
—  Yuri Kochiyama

The Audubon Ballroom, NYC, 21 February 1965

If you look closely at the middle photo you can’t help but notice that right beside Brother Malcolm’s bullet-riddled body, holding his head in fact, is an Asian American woman. Who was she and why was she there?

Google Yuri Kochiyama

Happy Black History YEAR!

P.S.: The brother in the top right photo of the middle panel… the one who appears to be giving a man who was just shot in the chest mouth-to-mouth resuscitation… FBI AGENT GENE ROBERTS.

The More You Know. .  .   .    .      .

Yuri Kochiyama, 1921-2014, Presente!

”People have a right to violence, to rebel, to fight back. And given what the United States Government and Western powers have done to the third world, I feel that these countries should fight back.” 

- Lifelong Japanese-American revolutionary Yuri Kochiyama (and associate of Malcolm X), who passed on June 1, 2014; quoted in the New York Times in 1996

Via Anti-Imperialist League

Historically, Americans have always been putting people behind walls. First there were the American Indians who were put on reservations, Africans in slavery, their lives on plantations, Chicanos doing migratory work, and the kinds of camps they lived in, and even too, the Chinese when they worked in the railroad camps where they were almost isolated, dispossessed people — disempowered. And I feel those are the things we should fight against so they won’t happen again. It wasn’t so long ago — in 1979 — that the feeling against the Iranians was so strong because of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran, where they wanted to deport Iranian students. And that is when a group called Concerned Japanese Americans organized, and that was the first issue we took up, and then we connected it with what the Japanese had gone through. This whole period of what the Japanese went through is important. If we can see the connections of how this happens in history, we can stem the tide of these things happening again by speaking out against them.
—  "Then Came the War" by Yuri Kochiyama in Japanese-American Experience on the Homefront. p. 18:,_handouts_files/Then%20Came%20the%20War%20-%20JA%20account.pdf
The Black Power Movement and The Asian American Movement

"…Malcolm looked up and seemed to be looking right at me. He was probably wondering, ‘Who is this old lady, and Asian at that.’ I stepped forward and called out, ‘Can I shake your hand?’ He looked at me and demanded, ‘What for?’ I stammered back, ‘I want to congratulate you.’ And he asked, ‘For what?’ I was trying to think of what to say and said, ‘For what you’re doing for your people.’ ‘What’s that?’ he queried. ‘For giving them direction.’ He abruptly burst forth with that fantastic Malcolm smile and extended his hand. I grabbed it."

Read more:

By Evelyn Chen ‘01

Many of the fundamental ideas that drove the genesis of the Asian American Movement came from the Black Power Movement. Likewise, much of the legislation that has come to have the most profound effect on the history of Asians in America occurred during the Civil Movement, a time that is often associated with the struggle for black equality. But the struggle was not limited to that of African Americans. In a time where minorities often find themselves in competition for similar resources, it behooves us to look back at history and the way that minorities have been linked not only by common experiences of oppression and racism, but also by striving for goals that idealize freedom and equality for all individuals. In a time where we enjoy unprecedented freedom and opportunities lie thick before us, it is often too easy to ignore those times in which we lacked simple rights or to forget the shared struggles fought to forge present circumstances.

The earliest linkage between Asians and Africans in America can be traced back to the early history of the nation, in the manner by which many of the earliest peoples were brought here: after the Emancipation Proclamation and the freeing of the black slaves, Americans attempted to replace the black slave with a yellow one. Sailing over to China and luring Asians with false promises, slave traders placed Asians on the exact same ships that were previously used in carrying black slaves from Africa. The history of oppression goes back centuries farther than many people realize, and it is an important aspect of American history often left out of textbooks. Contrary to what we are taught, America has not always been a land of the free.

During the 1960s, some of the most prominent advocates for Civil Rights were members of the African American community. However, what is perhaps lesser known are the Asian Americans that aided them and took inspiration from their struggles. One such individual is Yuri Kochiyama, who describes the impact that Malcolm X had on the Asian American Movement, in his views of self-determination and of knowing one’s history and how it relates to politics of the present (Kochiyama 131). One of the greatest aims of the Asian American Movement has been to reclaim a sense of the history of Asians in America and determine a culture that is neither Asian nor specifically American. Many of the early ideals of self-determination and rejection of assimilation came from ideologies espoused by the Black Power Movement and its participants. Another often-overlooked fact is in the effect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: in declaring discrimination by the government, small businesses, and public facilities a federal law, legislators did not distinguish between ethnicity. Many of the laws which are commonly taught in secondary school history classes highlight the effect that these laws had in black history, but in a time where the Asian American community is seeking its own roots, it is important to remember that many of the battles fought for equality and fair treatment are the same battles.

In a time where Asians still find themselves looking down upon blacks, and are often pitted against one another in stereotypes like the “model minority,” it is crucial to remember that it is not always as easy as it looks to determine what is the truth. So many histories are shared between peoples who often feel that they lack anything in common, and it is ignorance to these differences that will drive us apart. In determining Asian American identity, one must have a sense of history. Only by knowing where we have been will we be able to understand where we are and where we are going. It is impossible to look upon history as an isolated set of circumstances that apply to one ethnic or racial group: oppression is multifaceted and affects many people, and only by working together can racial and cultural oppression be overcome. When we come to understand that fact, we will realize that despite skin color, language, or culture, a shared history makes us all more alike than we think.

Works Consulted

~ Kochiyama, Yuri. “The Impact of Malcolm X on Asian-American Politics and Activism.” in Blacks, Latinos and Asians in Urban America: Status and Prospects for Politics and Activism. ed. James Jennings. London: Praeger, 1994. 129-141.

~ Wei, William. The Asian American Movement. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.

By Evelyn Chen ‘01