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Announcing the Yuri Kochiyama Fellowship

Medium.com (by Anoop Prasad):

Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus is excited to announce a new fellowship for formerly incarcerated Asian Pacific Islanders. Too often, the movements against prisons and deportation are out of sync and ignore the intersectional experiences of people in both systems. Advocates often make decisions without inviting formerly incarcerated people into the conversation and without consulting people who are locked up. Through the Yuri Kochiyama Fellowship, we hope to begin changing that. By centering and building leadership among directly impacted people, we hope to support a movement led by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.

Over the next several months, the first two Yuri Kochiyama Fellows will be using their experiences to advocate for changes to America’s incarceration and deportation systems. As people who have spent years in prison and immigration detention, their voices and leadership are sorely needed in the movement.

We chose to name the fellowship after Yuri Kochiyama. She was a tireless political activist who dedicated her life to social justice and human rights for almost five decades. Yuri spent two years as a young adult in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in Arkansas during World War II. Later in life, she worked with Malcolm X, the Harlem Parents Committee, the Black Panthers, the Young Lords and other groups. Throughout her life, she supported people in prison by exchanging letters, advocating for their release, and organizing support committees.

Our first two Fellows will carry on Yuri’s legacy by using their experiences in prison and immigration detention to advocate for those still locked up. Their first advocacy project will be in support of a ballot measure that limits the ability of District Attorneys to charge children as adults. The reforms will keep thousands of children from being sent to prison for decades and from facing deportation for those crimes.

Rajeshree Roy, a 2016 Yuri Kochiyama Fellow, was arrested at the age of fifteen for a robbery. Rather than receiving services as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who was homeless, she was tried as an adult and sent to prison for fifteen years. She would later spend a year in immigration detention.

Aelam Khensamphanh, a 2016 Yuri Kochiyama Fellow, fled war in Laos and came to the United States as a refugee when he was eight-years-old. His family was resettled in Modesto, a poor community plagued with violence. Unable to speak English and without language services, he struggled in school as a child. Attempting to fit in, he joined a gang at fifteen. After a shootout with a rival gang, he was sent to prison for life at the age of seventeen. While in prison, Aelam worked with the Squires Program to intervene with at-risk youth. After serving twenty-two years in prison, he spent months in immigration detention before being released earlier this year.

Aelam and Rajeshree will be working to make sure that future generations of children will not go through the same cycle of trauma, incarceration, and deportation that they did.

Google’s homepage honors the legendary Japanese American activist Yuri Kochiyama on her 95th birthday.

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In honor of Yuri Kochiyama‘s 95th birthday on May 19th, the Google homepage dedicated a Google Doodle to the legendary late activist, educator and humanitarian, who died in 2014.

The doodle, by artist Alyssa Winans, features an iconic image of Kochiyama at the center of one of many protests and rallies, for numerous social and political movements, over a lifetime in the fight for justice.

It’s with great pleasure that Google celebrates Yuri Kochiyama, an Asian American activist who dedicated her life to the fight for human rights and against racism and injustice. Born in California, Kochiyama spent her early twenties in a Japanese American internment camp in Arkansas during WWII. She and her family would later move to Harlem, where she became deeply involved in African American, Latino, and Asian American liberation and empowerment movements. Today’s doodle by Alyssa Winans features Kochiyama taking a stand at one of her many protests and rallies.

Kochiyama left a legacy of advocacy: for peace, U.S. political prisoners, nuclear disarmament, and reparations for Japanese Americans interned during the war. She was known for her tireless intensity and compassion, and remained committed to speaking out, consciousness-raising, and taking action until her death in 2014.

 

We stand on their shoulders: Remembering Asian American leaders before us 

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 Audrey Magazine:

In light of Martin Luther King Day, we take the time to reflect on the efforts of not only Martin Luther King Jr., but also the others who stood at the forefront to fight for civil rights in America.

I once stood in front of San Francisco State University’s Filipino mural (pictured above). As a freshman still full of curiosity and bewilderment, I took in every detail possible. While questioning who the people in the mural were and why they were there, one detail in particular resonated with me. There was a quote in the corner painted in bold red, “We stand on their shoulders.” That brought the piece full circle for me, and suddenly I was filled with gratitude.

The Civil Rights Movement was not just of King’s doing, but a coalition of thousands of local movements, including efforts made by Asian American activists. The Civil Rights Movement brought to light the racial disparities in America and demanded equal representation. People of color were ultimately fighting against marginalization and misrepresentation in institutions, the denial of basic human rights, and were standing against a system that consistently silenced their voices.

In honor of their efforts, here are some of the Asian American leaders who were crucial during this pivotal time in America.

Richard Aoki:

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By the age of 3, Richard Aoki and his family were victimized by racism during WWII when they were sent to a Japanese internment camp in Utah. That early experience was key to his understanding of mistreatment made by the US government. This, lead him to join and aid the Black Panther Party (despite his conflicting work as a FBI insider).

In Hyphen Magazine‘s articleDiane Fujino–author of Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance, and a Paradoxical Lifestated that he was “one of the most important political leaders bridging the Asian American, Black Power and Third World movements.”

 

 

Yuri Kochiyama:

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Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese American activist, dedicated her life to serving the black, Latino and Asian American communities. According to NPR’s article, “Kochiyama couldn’t help but stick out. She lived in New York City housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors. Kochiyama began participating in sit-ins and inviting Freedom Riders to speak at weekly open houses in the family’s apartment.”

She was most noted for her friendship with Malcolm X,  and making him see that the Black Power movement wasn’t just an African American struggle but a multi-ethnic struggle.

 

Grace Lee Boggs:

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One of Audrey’s Women of Influence, Grace Lee Boggs made strides in the Black Power Movement alongside her husband, James Boggs. She was involved in the African American Movement for more than 70 years. A Chinese American woman who pre-dated both the Asian American movement and second-wave Women’s Movement concerned with gender inequality, Boggs’ first experience with activism came when she got involved with protests in the black communities of Chicago over rat-infested housing.

 Larry Itliong:

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The Filipino American advocate for agricultural workers’ rights, Larry Itliong was a key leader in the Delano Grape Strike together with Caesar Chavez (seen above). However, his efforts for demanding better pay and treatment for laborers are often overlooked.

In popular culture, it’s seen as a Chicano movement, not as the multi-ethnic alliance that it actually was,” says Dawn Bohulano Mabalon–a history professor at San Francisco State University and author of Little Manila is in the Heart.

 

Third World Liberation Front (TWLF):

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Intercollegiate Chinese for Social Action (ICSA), Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE) and Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) were the Asian American unions that were part of the collective coalition of student unions called the “Third World Liberation Front.” These students fought a year long battle against the marginalization of a Eurocentric education, and were successful when the first College of Ethnic Studies was established at San Francisco State University. This is a battle that continues to inspire the oncoming generations as both Los Angeles and San Francisco are  now institutionalizing Ethnic Studies in high schools.

 


Fall of the International Hotel:

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In what was once the “Manilatown” of San Francisco, there stood the International Hotel (I-Hotel), a hub and a home not only for WWII veterans who were legally denied land, but also for low income families who could only afford single room occupancies. During the city’s first attempt to demolish the building in order to make a parking structure, many Bay Area student organizations, neighboring Chinatown organizations and community leaders stood in solidarity to create human blockade around the building.

But during the second eviction, authorities were successful at violently removing the elderly residents, which is seen in the documentary Fall of the I-Hotel. It wasn’t until decades after that the community’s efforts to rebuild the I-Hotel paid off in 2005 when the new I-Hotel was opened.

 

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Yuri Kochiyama’s activism ‘sustained by people in the movement’

 

Colorlines:

Pioneering Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama passed away on June 1st. She was 93 years old. For some, she’s known as the woman who cradled Malcolm X as he lay dying on stage at the Audubon Ballroom in 1965 (“I just picked up his head and put it in my lap,” she recounted in a 2008 interview with Democracy Now! “I said, “Please, Malcolm! Please, Malcolm! Stay alive!”). But even that iconic image of her doesn’t do enough to capture the life she spent dedicated to social activism.

Kochiyama’s journey began with her family’s internment during World War II and wound its way through the Black Power and Black Arts Movements of the 1970s. She was instrumental in helping Japanese-Americans win reparations for their internment, and spent the last years of her life inspiring countless young activists.

Most people make life; some people make history,” her biographer Diane Fujino told the San Francsico Chronicle in 2005 ahead of the release of “Yuri Kochiyama, Heartbeat of Struggle.” “Yuri organized her life around making history. I think of her as a very ordinary person, who’s done extraordinary things.”

She embodied the multiracial spirit of racial justice, and while there are plenty of tributes — like this song from Seattle-based hip-hop group Blue Scholars, or this heartfelt essay from Kochiyama’s granddaughter, Maya, or actress Sandra Oh’s performance of her speech on her internment — what’s most instructive is to listen to what she had to say about her own life.

In 1996, Kochiyama sat down with Angela Davis to talk about activism. They picked the conversation up again 12 years later.  The documentary film, “Mountains That Take Wing” by C.A. Griffith & H.L.T. Quan, is long (more than 90 minutes) and not the best quality, but it documents how Kochiyama approached her life’s work. When asked by Davis what helped sustain her decades of activism, Kochiyama responded, “People in the movement sustain each other. It’s because their spirit is so contagious.

 

Check out this link:

 Yuri Kochiyama’s activism ‘sustained by people in the movement’

 

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Not Just A ‘Black Thing’: An Asian-American’s Bond With Malcolm X

KochiyamaCheck out this interesting piece by NPR:

“The brief friendship of Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama began close to 50 years ago with a handshake.

Diane Fujino, chairwoman of the Asian-American studies department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, details the moment in her biography ‘Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama.'”

Check out this link:

Not Just A ‘Black Thing’: An Asian-American’s Bond With Malcolm X

Yuri Kochiyama