Over the weekend we lost another Freedom Fighter, Yuri Kochiyama… I hope folks take time out to know she was more than ‘just the small Asian Woman‘ who cradled Malcolm X when he was assassinated that dreadful day in February 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom. For starters we should know about her political work in Harlem on school integration and the Freedom school she and her husband Bill helped established with the Harlem Parents Committee. We should know how she and Malcolm X came to be close friends and she joined his Organization for Afro-American Unity ..She wasn’t just some lady who happened to be there in the audience. She was someone who was down for the cause.
We should know about Yuri’s political work before and after Malcolm’s death ranging from her fighting to get reparations for Japanese Americans, fighting for Puerto Rican Independence, fighting to end nuclear weapons and of course the fight to free and get rights for political prisoners. The plight of Political Prisoners was near and dear to Yuri because she, along with her family and thousands of other Japanese-Americans were political prisoners after they were rounded up and sent to internment camps. Her father was one of the first to be sent away and died as a result. The camp she was sent to was Camp Jerome in Arkansas.
For many Yuri Kochiyama was a major figure who radicalized people’s thinking and political outlook. She was an inspirational woman who touched many in particular, many progressive minded Hip Hop generation Asian activists who saw as a mother figure. She was someone who we would see at all the key rallies and demonstrations who was accessible and mentored many. If you ever met and spoke with her, you could see she spit more wisdom about civil rights and social justice than most have stood on podiums demanding hefty fees. Yuri was uncompromising and unwavering in her fight to end oppression.. Honor her by learning about her work and building off the foundation she laid down.. She will be missed RIP Yuri Kochiyama