HISTORY: Honoring Yuri Kochiyama

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Today, Google is honoring the Japanese Civil Rights activist Yuri Kochiyama. For some, including myself, this name may have been an unfamiliar one.  Here’s some quick facts about Mrs. Kochiyama and her impact on the rights and freedoms that we are provided with today.

  1. Kochiyama was good friends with civil rights leader Malcolm X after meeting him at her arrest in 1963.  In fact, Kochiyama was present at the Organization of Afro-American Unity meeting in which Malcolm X was brutally murdered. Read about their initial meeting and friendship at NPR.
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    Yuri Kochiyama is pictured holding Malcolm X’s head after he was shot and killed at a meeting.

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    Yuri and Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X. SF Bayview.
  2. In 1941, Kochiyama and her family were forced to live in World War II internment camps after the fear of Pearl Harbor.  The horrifying conditions in these camps are what initially sparked her interest in fighting for social justice.

    I didn’t wake up and decide to become an activist but you couldn’t help notice the inequities, the injustices. It was all around you.

  3. Yuri was a known activist who dedicated herself to many causes including the rights of political prisoners, Black and Asian-American liberation and anti-war.

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    Clearly down with the movement.
  4. In 2005, Yuri Kochiyama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her lifetime of community work and activism.Yuri_Kochiyama.jpg
  5. Kochiyama was known for supporting radical leaders such as Assata Shakur,  Abimael Guzman and Yu Kikumura.
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Kochiyama and Angela Davis SF Bayview.
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Yuri and Kiilu Nyasha SF Bayview.

 

As history has it, many important figures and events are left out of the textbooks.  Just like you, I had never heard of Yuri Kochiyama – I’d think a middle-aged Japanese woman would stand out in photos or news stories.  There are hundreds, even thousands, of other American men and women who committed their lives to improving the injustices that plague our country but who are left out of the mix.  Let’s celebrate them!

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